10 Steps to Starting the Divorce Process, if You Need a Life-Saving Divorce


First, make sure you (and the kids) are safe.


If your spouse has weapons or has a history of destructive behavior, you need to take precautions. If your spouse has a pattern of threatening you, you may need to get to safety before taking legal steps of any kind.  That might mean escaping with your children to your parents' house even out of state. Why? Because merely mentioning divorce may trigger your spouse to do something unexpected and violent.


The legal process of divorce is very different from what people expect


I would start by setting aside a few days to understand the legal process and to educate yourself about your options and how to protect yourself (and the kids) and (if desired) stay in your home.

1. Read or skim the NOLO Press book on Divorce (or if you’re over 50, look at their Divorce over 50 book). It’s good to know exactly what to expect. Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce
https://amzn.to/32vCF3J and Divorce After 50: Your Guide to the Unique Legal and Financial Challenges https://amzn.to/3JtNa8b  

2. Know your state laws about divorce. Put together a list of your questions and concerns in a notebook with the words "Notes for My Attorney" written on the cover. There is no federal divorce law. Every state is different, so go to this article to find links to your state's laws: https://lifesavingdivorce.com/divorcelaws  Don’t rely on your friends for advice. They usually are misinformed or guessing, and guessing can be costly. Do online searches to get information from your local courthouse and your state websites.  Many states have FREE online spousal support and child support calculators online so you can get a ballpark idea of how much spousal support or child support to expect.

3. Know your options for legal advice. Again, each state is different, but you can hire a divorce attorney, a mediator, or a paralegal. Only an attorney in your state is qualified to give you specific legal advice and help you fill out forms, but you may be able to hire an attorney a la carte to help you with just one or two forms. This is called an “unbundled” service. Not all states permit this. https://lifesavingdivorce.com/divorcelaws   In addition to a legal professional, I'd recommend you hire a divorce coach because you'll need emotional support and help gathering and organizing documents.

4. Join a support group. You will need a lot of help, support, clarity, and encouragement as you go through this process. There are all kinds of abuse survivor and infidelity survivor groups for men and women. If you are an adultery survivor who is a Christian, check out DivorceCare. (DivorceCare isn't as good for people who divorced due to abuse or having a spouse with addictions.) Abuse, addiction, and infidelity survivors (both men and women) can ask to join my private Facebook group, “The Life Saving Divorce.” (Answer all 4 questions.) Some good private faith-based groups online are Natalie Hoffman’s women’s group “Flying Free”; Sarah McDugal’s women’s group, “Wilderness To Wild”; Betrayal Trauma Recovery’s groups btr.org; Helena Knowlton’s women’s group “Confusion to Clarity ARISE”; or Gretchen Baskerville’s coed private Facebook group “Life-Saving Divorce,” for example.

5. For the spiritual side of divorce, read chapters 3 and 6 of my book, The Life-Saving Divorce. It will help you to defend yourself from people who stigmatize divorcees and use the Bible to judge you. https://amzn.to/3CCBsnr   Here are the Bible passages that condone divorce for sexual immorality, adultery, physical violence, chronic emotional abuse, family-endangering addictions, and severe indifference/neglect.  http:www.lifesavingdivorce.com/abuse-in-bible  And here are tips to answer people who say, "It always takes two to tango," or "You weren't perfect either." Find out if your church officially condones divorce for abuse (if that is your situation), you can download a chart to find out: https://lifesavingdivorce.com/unsafe. If your church does not, you may not get much understanding or emotional support.

6. If you have kids, please be prepared to talk with them. Here are some tips: https://lifesavingdivorce.com/tellkids.  If they've been traumatized by abuse, scroll down to TOPIC 20 on my Recommended Books page: https://lifesavingdivorce.com/links  Thirty years of research show that 8 in 10 kids of divorce turn out okay, so don't believe those who try to tell you that divorce universally destroys children and you must "stay for the kids." It's simply not true. See  www.lifesavingdivorce.com/abuse-and-kids  If you expect your soon-to-be-ex spouse to try to strip you of all custody and visitation rights, consider joining the One Mom's Battle private Facebook group. (It's for men too.)

7. Start gathering documents and make a safety plan. This will save you time, money, and legal fees. Here’s a list: https://lifesavingdivorce.com/escape

8. Don’t delete demeaning texts, emails, notes, or voicemails. Save those as evidence. You may need it as proof of stalking, legal harassment, assault, defamation, blackmail, threats, lying, name-calling, put-downs, etc. This article shows you what to do. https://lifesavingdivorce.com/document

9. Set up a brand new Google account at a friend’s house or library or coffeeshop, any place that is not connected to the wifi in your own home. Set up at least one new email just to use for communications with your attorney. If your spouse is hostile and tech savvy, you may have to get another phone (a "burner" phone) using a separate account or a prepaid calling card (not on your joint wireless or mobile phone account) so that you cannot have your location or calls tracked. As long as your phone is on the same account as your spouse's, they can find out who is calling you and whom you are calling. And of course, you can see their call logs too. if your ex is cyberstalking you, you may need to have your smartphone and computer/tablet wiped clean to remove any spyware. Learn more here: https://lifesavingdivorce.com/escape

10. Find sources of money:  You need to start setting aside money for the divorce BEFORE you or your spouse files. Reveal these separate bank accounts to your attorney. Also, any debts or credit card purchases made prior to either of you filing for divorce or legal separation are joint debts. So you will find many people pay their attorney's retainer using a joint credit card prior to either party filing for divorce or separation. This only applies to situations where neither of you has filed any legal action.  If you are 62 years old or older, and were married for 10 years, divorced, and are not married now, you may be eligible for your ex's social security or disability benefits (even if your ex-spouse has remarried). Doing this does not reduce your ex-spouse's social security income. See https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/4388. If your spouse is enrolled in a retirement plan, you may want to hire a QDRO attorney who will calculate the division of the plan and put it in writing in your final court judgment (the divorce decree). Watch these two videos: https://youtu.be/QVWZfuXXX6g and https://youtu.be/gLMU9qSYc4I

11. If you file, serve your spouse immediately.  Divorce filings are public record, and many law firms camp out at courthouses to find out about new divorce filings. Then they contact your spouse and offer representation quickly, often in less than a week. This is legal for them to do, but it may upend your plans of protecting yourself and being in a safe location when your spouse finds out.

BONUS. Manage your expectations. Divorce involves a lot of major changes compressed into a one- or two-year period. If these changes were spread out over 10 years, they would be easy to handle. But in a divorce, you don’t have that luxury. So strip down your life to the essentials. Get rid of optional activities and expenses that will take your time and attention away from the task at hand: caring for yourself and your kids spiritually, emotionally, and legally.

Are you going through a life-saving divorce and need support and clarity? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 4 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book on divorce for Christians and other people of faith, The Life-Saving Divorce: Paperback: https://amzn.to/3cF1j25  Or eBook: https://amzn.to/3CCBsnr

Also, sign up for my email list below or HERE www.lifesavingdivorce.com/courage






Start Here



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Common Myths






GET THE BOOK! The Life-Saving Divorce is about divorces for very serious reasons: a pattern of sexual immorality, physical abuse, chronic emotional abuse, family-impairing addictions, abandonment, or severe neglect. This book will give you hope for your future, and optimism about your children. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.



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