Entry of final papers in a divorce frequently triggers a variety of emotions. There may be a feeling of relief at having survived the legal process. Even when divorce is uncontested there is often a feeling of sadness from officially ending a relationship that once was special. There should also be feelings of hope and optimism as you embark on a journey to create a life after divorce.
Creating your new life means letting go of the old. Harboring resentment from actions taken or things said during the divorce process will only hold you back. Now is the time move forward, to set new goals, welcome new experiences and to revive the dreams of what you once hoped to accomplish in life. Certainly, you may need time to grieve over the loss of your marriage, but also view this life change as an opportunity to rediscover and reinvent yourself.
Your new life will require attention to practical matters but should also allow you to enjoy activities that, while married, you may have deemed impractical. On the practical side, you need to change your will and, possibly, the named beneficiaries on your life insurance. Joint accounts should be closed. You may need to obtain your own health insurance. Review your budget and monthly expenses taking into consideration any spousal or child support you may pay or receive. This process may have begun while the divorce was pending, but a quick re-evaluation may prove worthwhile.
Now may be the time to take some classes to enhance job skills or to look for a better or higher paying job. Unless you are caring for kids, your time is now your own. You have greater freedom to work hours you choose without regard to the needs or demands of a spouse. Being single also means having to rely more on your own talents and skills. Tasks your spouse completed are now your responsibility. Embracing these new challenges will enhance your feeling of self-worth and build confidence in your abilities.
If you are the custodial parent for children from the marriage, realize that many of the day to day child rearing decisions are up to you now. You may feel added responsibility from being the parent who must make many of the day to day decisions, but you also enjoy the freedom to make decisions on your own without seeking or requiring agreement from anyone. Life after divorce may also provide an opportunity to re-invest in your children’s lives by spending more time being involved in their school or extracurricular activities. You are the person who will likely attend most teacher conferences, sporting events and school concerts. You will be the parent your kids will usually seek out first for advice. Recognizing and accepting these responsibilities without fear of being criticized or second-guessed by anyone will feel more rewarding as a parent.
If you are the non-custodial parent and have accepted that role, make the most of your time. If that means your kids spend every other weekend with you, plan for it. When the kids are not with you, your time is your own. You can work as late as you want, come and go as you please, go out with your own friends and pursue your personal interests. Then, when the kids arrive for parenting time, you can and should make them your sole focus.
The children will benefit from having your undivided attention even for a short period. Choose activities you and the kids enjoy or in which you would like them involved. Use the time wisely to build strong, positive relationships. You may find a short, concentrated period spent together is far more productive and enjoyable than the brief and sometimes sporadic contact you may have had tending to the demands of daily life when married.
During marriage you lived and viewed life as a couple striving toward what you believed were shared goals. Perhaps you made sacrifices to further your spouse’s career or set aside your own interests as impractical in order to share your spouse’s interests. That time is past. Life after divorce provides an opportunity to re-examine and set your own personal goals. You should look to the past and remember the things you enjoyed prior to marriage while also looking to the future. Consider where you want to see your life five years from now and start down the path.
Divorce tends to shrink the circle of friends or acquaintances you may have seen on a regular basis, particularly those who had a primary relationship with your former spouse. Don’t become isolated. Spend more time with friends you may not have seen in some time, people special to you and from whom you may have drifted apart after you married. Reconnecting can both ground you and provide added enjoyment in your life particularly as you recover from the divorce.
Strike up new friendships. Go to lunch with a work colleague. Join a club that focuses on a favorite interest. Volunteer to work for a community organization. There is no need to rush into socializing after divorce. Partaking in some isolated “me” time may be therapeutic for a while, but, eventually, connecting face-to-face with the world around you should enhance your life.
Engage in activities you enjoy. Activities that may have been impractical in a marriage may prove practical now. Do things that make you happy or feel fulfilled. Go to a movie with a friend, take a class about a favorite hobby or craft, play golf without feeling guilty or go on a day trip by yourself, with the kids or with friends. Take a walk or a nap when you feel like it. This is your life now. Live it.
Entry of final divorce papers ends only one chapter in your life. The day after divorce is the first day of the rest of your life and provides an opportunity to reassert control over your life. Take advantage of your rediscovered freedom to choose who you want to be, to determine what you want to achieve and to begin taking steps that will accomplish your goals. If you have any questions about divorce law, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free initial consultation.