Important First Steps After Divorce Papers Arrive

As I grabbed the large manila envelope out of the mailbox, I turned it over and saw the return address of my lawyer, my stomach tightened and my mouth went dry. It was our divorce papers. That was that. No second chance to put our family back together. It was the final death toll on a life I hadn’t been ready to give up. In my hands I held a document that told me that I was alone and the future looked bleak.

The very first thing I did upon returning to the house was go into my bedroom, shut the door and have a good cry. This is an important step to take! If you stifle your feelings and stuff everything inside, you end up becoming a walking time-bomb. So go ahead cry until you don’t have another tear inside of you. Not a crier? Well, then you need to find some other safe activity to get that intense emotion out of your system. I would suggest a physical activity that makes you exhausted like jogging or working out on gym equipment. Just a note…punching your ex in the face is not an acceptable physical activity!!

An important step to take after the divorce papers arrive is to go over the paperwork you received to ensure everything is correct.

It may be difficult to go over the paperwork but you do need to fully understand the terms of the divorce. If you have any questions, call your lawyer. Do NOT contact your ex-spouse about any questions in the divorce papers or to accuse them of any wrong doing or incorrect information– leave that up to the lawyers.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to make a plan. It sounds a little simple, but just sitting down and writing out what you would like to do now that the divorce papers have arrived empowers you.

Some things to include in your plan:

  • Take stock of your resources and determine any changes that need to be made.
  • Do you need a new job, a second job, or need to go back to school ?
  • If you have to relocate, how can you keep the changes to a minimum for your children?
  • How can you include your children in the new plan for your family?

Divorce changes a lot of things very quickly for your family. When the divorce papers arrive it’s time to have a real conversation with your children- if you haven’t already. You’ll be surprised at how willing they will be to make changes when they’re included in the plans. The bigger the change, the more your children need to be involved. If you have to move, let the children have two choices that you approve of, then let them make the decision of which place to move into. If you need to go back to school or back into the workplace, explain to them how their everyday schedule is going to change. Let them voice their opinions and be prepared for their outbursts of anger. They are afraid and need your assurance that you won’t leave too.

Give them concrete responsibilities so they have ownership in the new family dynamic. My kids were 16 and 14 when the divorce was final and I was determined to stay in our home until they graduated. We had a lot of conversations about the budget and both of them found jobs as soon as they were old enough. It wasn’t always easy, but talking things out with my kids always worked well for us.

Finally, once those divorce papers arrive, don’t be afraid to ask for help in making your new life and your new family plan work. Go to the nearest community college and find out what they have to offer to improve your skills. Also, there are a lot of community programs out there to help single mothers learn new ways to support your children! You may need to visit a Job Service office and find out what they can do to help. Don’t be afraid to ask around as you never know where resources can come from and who’s willing to help you. Find out what’s available and then take the necessary steps to remake your life.

Divorce does not have to destroy you. It will set you back somewhat, but it does not have to define who you are and what you can do with the rest of your life. When you take some important first steps when those divorce papers arrive, you can minimize a lot of the collateral damage to you and your family.

Much love,



Like this post? 

Joette Knapp is a Professional Life Coach, Speaker, and part of the coaching team at Big Blue Couch™ Coaching. After surviving losing her first baby, and two devastating divorces, Joette turned to her faith and discovered that God can take the ashes of her shattered life and turn them into something new and beautiful. She is passionate about helping other women walk through life-changing  experiences and discover that there can be a great life on the other side.