The First Thing You Must Do When Your Divorce Is Final

Divorce experts give their top tips for moving on post-split.

Brittany Wong
Divorce Editor, The Huffington Post

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It doesn’t matter how emotionally prepared you think you are: When you finally receive word that your divorce has been finalized, you’re going to feel a bit thrown for a loop.

To help you chart your next step, we asked experts in a variety of fields (therapists, divorce attorneys, financial advisors) to share their best advice for the newly divorced. See what they had to say below. 

1. Acknowledge that this is the end of an era.

“I find that taking this time to honor the end of something properly and being present in the moment allows you to more fully embark on your new beginning. Giving yourself permission to feel your feelings can be an incredible gift. I recommend clients open the divorce decree when they are by themselves, in a safe or special place that has meaning for them, but also have the comfort of a friend, family member or trusted professional at the ready. ” ― Kira Gould, a divorce coach and founder of the support group Getting Unmarried: Redefining Happily Ever After

2. If you have kids, continue to talk to them about the changes ahead.

“Remind your kids that you are still a family. You want to listen to your kids and encourage them to share their feelings, vent their frustrations and express their opinions, even if you don’t like what you hear. Equally important is to contact their school, talk with guidance counselors and alert all concerned about the changes in your family. Alert, informed teachers can be strong allies for your family at this challenging time.” ― Rosalind Sedacca, a divorce and parenting coach and the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?

3. Celebrate how far you’ve come since splitting up.
“The first thing you should do when your divorce is final is pop the champagne and take a moment, by yourself, to celebrate. You have probably been through hell to get to where you are right now. Most people who divorce find that ending a marriage is not an intentional ‘conscious uncoupling’ but rather a slow, painful, ripping apart of their lives. Take this moment to look at how far you have come. You have learned some powerful lessons and you have grown from this divorce. Give yourself some credit.” ― Tammy Nelson, a sexologist and author of The New Monogamy

4. Have a final follow-up meeting with your divorce lawyer.
“Many people simply want to put the divorce behind them and not think about it, and this is understandable. But once the dust has settled and the situation is a little bit (or hopefully a lot) calmer, meet with your lawyer. Ask about possible problems and let him or her explain how the process works if one of you do not comply with the terms of the divorce or need to change something. Get a clear understanding of your rights and obligations. Learn how to avoid problems and learn which issues are worth going back to court over and which are simply not worth fighting.” ―Randall M. Kessler, a family attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia

5. Take control of your financial life.

“It is vital to review any changes to your income and expenses. Create a realistic budget designed to build and strengthen your financial security. Also update your retirement accounts, will and trust to ensure your former spouse is no longer a beneficiary. Your wealth and financial future mean much more than just preserving and growing your assets; make sure to address tax planning, estate transfer, asset protection and charitable giving as well.” ―  Graham O’Kelly, a senior vice president and wealth management financial advisor at Morgan Stanley

6. Stay single for as long as you need to. 

“It can be tempting to immediately jump back into the dating pool or into a new relationship to alleviate and distract from the heartbreak, the loneliness, and the disappointment that comes with a major breakup. But beware of this behavior becoming a band-aid approach to the real healing and introspection that needs to be done. The healing process is different for everyone and while some people might need a few months, others might need years to move on.” ― Neely Steinberg, a dating coach and the author of Skin In the Game: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Find Love

7. Stay healthy and active. 

“After divorce, commit yourself to regular workouts as a form of stress release where you can physically vent your frustrations. Practice healthy eating. Then, book a retreat to somewhere on your bucket list, ideally a place that offers yoga and guided meditation. Finding or renewing a physical passion will do more for your well-being than just an obligatory ‘divorce-is-final’ vacation or a party weekend in Vegas.” ― Jill Brown, certified health coach and fitness trainer

8. Take some time to nurture yourself, in whatever way feels right.

“No matter how difficult the marriage was, divorce is usually a gut-wrenching experience. Give yourself space to feel whatever you’re feeling. Let yourself cry, scream, write in your journal, express yourself in a way that fits for you. The sooner you allow yourself to grieve over the loss of the relationship ― which means attending to your feelings, thoughts, memories, and so on ― the sooner you’ll be able to move forward with your life.” ― Marcia Naomi Berger, a psychotherapist and author of Marriage Meetings For Lasting Love

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