What to Do Immediately After Divorce: 7 Essential Steps to Take

by | Apr 8, 2024 | Alabama, Divorce, Significant Decisions

Going through a divorce often leaves people with a lot of questions and uncertainty. One of the first things you might be wondering is what to do immediately after divorce.

Divorce is one of the hardest things you can experience in life.  Research has shown that it ranks second only to the death of a loved one in terms of traumatic life events.  Given this information, it is no surprise that you might feel grief, depression, confusion, and loss after your divorce.

Here at Herlihy Family Law, we think of divorce as not merely an ending, but a new beginning, a fresh start.  Your divorce can be your opportunity to write new chapter in your life.


1. Rebuilding Your Life

How do you rebuild your life after a divorce?  First of all, consider it an opportunity to start over without all the conflict and strife that led you to divorce in the first place.  You can create your life in your own image – that is an opportunity!

Take an inventory of the resources you have from your divorce, so you can know what you have and what you need to start over.  You have a lot of big decisions to make, from where to live to how to raise your children in this new family dynamic.

Consider what your priorities are and make choices that will help you meet your goals and generate long-term happiness and well-being in your life.


2. Taking Care of Yourself

Like they say on airplanes, put your oxygen mask on yourself before trying to assist others.  You need to not only survive but thrive to be the best person and parent you can be (if you have children).

You have been through a lot, and it is important to give yourself the time and space you need to emotionally recover from your divorce.  Get plenty of rest, and maybe even take a vacation.  Adopt other self-care strategies such as meditation, spending time outside, exercise, or journaling.

Avoid negative coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs, junk food, shopping, or rushing into a new relationship when you are not ready.  Try to think about not what might feel good right this second, but what will make you feel good tomorrow, next week, or next year.


3. Establishing a Support Network

Divorce may make you feel alone, but if you turn to your left and your right, odds are, you will see someone else who has been divorced and understands what you are going through.

Family and friends can be a great support system, but on the off chance that the people in your immediate network have not experienced divorce, there are plenty of support groups in person and online full of people who have gone through a divorce just like you.

When you are looking for your support network after your divorce, look for people who are ready, willing, and able to listen and be empathetic, but not try to “fix” you – you aren’t broken, you are just divorced.


4. Handling Financial Matters

If you have received a financial settlement from your divorce, you need to make a plan for your assets that will provide long-term security.  Many people who get divorced end up with half the equity in their marital home.

Typically, you would use those funds as a down payment on your new home.  Today, mortgage interest rates are very high, so you may decide that it is not the best time to buy and you want to invest the money instead.

You might also receive a portion of your spouse’s retirement account.  It is important to understand that, if you are under age 59 ½ , you cannot receive retirement funds as cash without paying substantial taxes and penalties.  Thinking long term, you likely want to plan to roll any retirement funds you receive in your divorce over to an Individual Retirement Account because you can do so without taxes and penalties.

Speaking of taxes, you will have a new tax filing status after your divorce.  You can only file income tax returns as “married” if you were still married on December 31st of that tax year.  After your divorce, you can file as single or possibly as head of household if you have minor children who live with you.

If you are employed, you will need to contact your payroll department to make sure they are withholding the correct amount of taxes from your paycheck due to your new status.

You will also need to go through the process of separating any joint bills such as utilities, car insurance, and cellphones once you are divorced.


5. Co-Parenting Strategies

Figuring out co-parenting can be one of the most challenging aspects of life after divorce.  It is best for your children if you and your former spouse can cooperate and work together to make mutual decisions that benefit your children and serve their best interests.  \

Parents who continue to constantly fight and argue after divorce are often referred to as “high conflict.”  There is a huge amount of research that shows that children of “high conflict” parents suffer poor outcomes throughout their life, including higher instances of depression and anxiety, difficulty in relationships throughout their life, and they are even less likely to go to college.  You obviously do not want any of that!

Children of divorce will thrive every bit as much as children of intact marriages, if their parents can find a way to avoid high conflict and co-parent effectively after divorce.


6. Seeking Professional Help

If you are not sure how to navigate all the changes that follow a divorce, it is time to seek professional help.  Your divorce lawyer can be a tremendous resource in exploring your options and referring you to other professionals, provided your divorce lawyer is very experienced in divorce.

If you feel lost in making financial decisions, you can contact a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a financial planner or advisor.  They can help you figure out your taxes and make smart decisions on how to invest your money and save for the future.

If you are struggling with your own emotions following your divorce, seek the help of an individual therapist.  Therapists are professionals who are skilled in helping guide people through challenging times.  There is no shame in seeking help if you need it!

Your children may need individual therapy as well if they are struggling to adjust to the major changes that come with divorce.

If your challenge revolves around co-parenting, finding a therapist who specializes in family counseling and/or co-parenting would be a good fit for your situation.


7. Embracing the Future

Above all else, divorce is a fresh start.  Divorce is an opportunity to embrace a new future – one that you create in service of your own goals, dreams, and values.

If you are going through a divorce and wondering what to do immediately after divorce, use these steps as your guide. If you have any questions about divorce and navigating your post-divorce life and you want a divorce attorney who can help you not only with your divorce but also provide a post-divorce checklist to get you on the right track, reach out to our team.


Author: Alison Herlihy

Family law attorney Alison Herlihy is a native of Mobile, Alabama. Alison has engaged in the private practice of family law since 2005, focusing primarily on domestic relations, divorce and child support, child custody law, adoption law, juvenile, probate practice, and wills.

Alison Baxter Herlihy earned the prestigious AV Preeminent peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which recognizes attorneys for the highest levels of legal ability and professional ethical standards. Alison is a certified Guardian Ad Litem. In 2015, Alison became a Registered Mediator on the Alabama State Court Mediator Roster, in both general and domestic relations mediation.