My “To-Do” List -Divorced Girl Smiling


Read the e-mail I received from a woman wondering how to start a separation. I felt like the best way to give her advice was to give her a “To-do list.”

Hi Jackie, Today’s been a rough day–my husband just told me (after 14 years of
marriage) that he plans to leave me after he’s gotten his financial
situation under control.
We have not been in a good place for a few years now. He wants sex, I think he’s a jerk to me and I’m not interested.

We’re both at fault, but today he made it clear that he doesn’t see us together much longer. I’m in shock. Not that this happened, but that we’re actually going through with it this time. I asked him to leave and he said he wouldn’t. 

Here’s my question:  I don’t know where to start. I mean, I don’t know how to start a separation. It seems overwhelming. Any advice would be appreciated.

The start of a separation and a divorce can feel very overwhelming, confusing, and scary. My advice is to gather knowledge, consult with professionals and empower yourself so that you are in a position to make the best decisions for you and your children.


The Center for Divorce Recovery


So, with that said, here is my to-do list for how to start a separation:


1. Contact a mortgage banker.


If you own a home and you are wondering whether or not you can afford to stay in the home, I would contact a mortgage banker to review some numbers with you. People always think you should call a divorce attorney first, but I think a mortgage banker should be at the top of your list. Remember that this is a time to gather information, to know all the facts so that you can make good decisions.


Divorce Mortgage Planning


2.Consult with a divorce attorney.

This is how you will learn what options you have as to how you can get divorced. Will you get divorced through mediation or the collaborative process or maybe you will have to go through litigation. You might not even know what questions to ask, so let the divorce attorney do a lot of talking and then you can call back with your questions or even have a second meeting if you feel like this attorney might be a good fit for you.

Don’t hesitate to meet with 2 or 3 or even 4 attorneys before deciding who to hire. It’s a big decision and the wrong attorney can really mess things up for you. That said, a really good attorney can get you a wonderful outcome.


Patricia Van Haren, Divorce Attorney



3. Put your resume together and/or re-evaluate your work situation.


Maybe you haven’t worked in awhile. Maybe you work, but it’s part-time and now you are going to need more hours and more of an income. Divorce causes people to have to go back to work a lot of times and it might seem scary and you might not want to, but I promise you it will work out for the best. If you have your resume together and you start putting some feelers out, you will feel like you are way ahead of the game as the divorce progresses.


4. Hire a divorce coach.

When I got divorced, divorce coaches weren’t even a thing yet. Wow, do I wish they would have been! Having a divorce coach guide you through the process is like having a friend, a cheerleader and a sounding board at your side through your entire divorce. That person will give you the strength to make better decisions. Divorce coaches are a gift!


5. Hire a therapist for yourself, your kids and/or for the family all together.


A divorce is very stressful and scary for children, as well as for yourself. This is a time to lean on a therapist from day one, before the divorce gets ugly and one or both partners becomes angry, bitter, resentful, etc. I think everyone going through a divorce and all kids of divorce should try therapy, at least for the first year of the divorce. It’s a wonderful outlet for kids to be able to tell therapist things they don’t feel comfortable telling Mom and Dad. It’s also a great outlet for you, so that you can be the best parent you possibly can be.


6. Meet with a financial planner/investment advisor.

This is the time to put everything on the table: all your assets, your income, your debts, your budget. A financial planner (best to go with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) can put numbers together for you. The other good thing about this is it forces you to get all of your bank statements together and see what you have. It will also help you realize how much you know (or don’t know) about your household finances and assets.



If you think your spouse may be hiding money, look into this inexpensive tool that will help you determine if that’s the case. And, if you find out he/she is hiding money, you can retrieve it without spending tens of thousands of dollars on a forensic accountant. The Divorce Money Guide will also help you organize your finances!

It's time to find the money - Divorce Money Guide


 8. Get tough and believe in yourself.

Things are really rough right now and I hate to say it, but they could get more rough. This is the time to truly toughen up and believe in yourself and your ability to make the best decisions for yourself and your children.

I know it’s not easy, but dig deep into your soul and find all of your best qualities and use them. You are so much stronger than you think. And, once you have conversations with all of these divorce professionals, you are going to feel empowered and much more calm because you will have so much more knowledge than you had before.

Divorce isn’t easy, especially starting a separation. It’s a rocky road. But, it’s a road that gets smoother and easier and happier and life really does keep getting better and better. But only if you make good decisions now–at the start of your separation.

I wish you all the best!



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Rita Morris, Certified Life Coach and Parenting Coach

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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Girl Smiling is here to empower, connect and inspire you. Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling, the site, the podcast and the app. A former television journalist and newspaper features reporter, Pilossoph is also the author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers.

The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

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