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Gayle Rosenwald Smith on Getting Divorced
Your support system—which includes family, friends and divorce professionals—is your key to making it through your divorce, explains Gayle Rosenwald Smith, J.D., a Philadelphia lawyer concentrating in family law. She is author of Divorce and Money: Everything You Need to Know and co-author of What Every Woman Should Know About Divorce and Custody: Judges, Lawyers, and Therapists Share Winning Strategies on How to Keep the Kids, the Cash, and Your Sanity. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, Money.com and TheLaw.com. Here, Smith shares her thoughts on getting divorced.
What questions come up during the first 30 days of getting divorced?
I think that the number one question is, “How am I going to survive financially?” Next is, “Will I lose custody of my children?” For stay-at-home moms, there are more questions: “How much child support can I expect?” “Can I get alimony?” “How much will I get?” “Should I go back to work?” A major question for anyone going through divorce is “Who’s going to pay for my health insurance?”
What do people often misunderstand about getting divorce?
I think it’s important to understand that it’s a process—it’s not going to be over in the next 30 days. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. You’ve got to pace yourself. You have to look at it almost as a character-building experience. You will come out of it whole.
What are the key things for people should do during the first 30 days of getting divorced?
Don’t make any major changes or decisions. Try not to look at this as failure. Don’t blame yourself. If there are kids, don’t bad-mouth the other parent.
You really have to be discriminating about who you communicate with and what you share. Some people tend to “bleed” all over their friends. You can’t go to everybody in the world because you will regret it later. Some people go to their spouse’s family, which can be used against them later.
Don’t use email as a way to emote because it also can be used against you. Make sure that you secure things within the first 30 days. You must do a fact-finding mission—immediately; if there’s something in the house that you don’t want your spouse to see, then don’t leave it around.
Why are the first 30 days of getting divorced such a vital time?
You’re very raw emotionally, so you may not make wise decisions. Get a good expert, whether it’s a therapist or a lawyer. It’s your best move. Rely on expert advice.
How can people really succeed during the first 30 days?
You must maintain your emotional health, your integrity. In this particular life change, that’s succeeding. You have to step back and take a deep breath.
What phases will people go through during the divorce process?
The phases are similar to that of dealing with death: denial, anger/hostility, defensiveness and depression. With death, however, there is more of an impetus to move on.
What is most important thing to do beyond the first 30 days?
Think strategically, plan and keep your kids on an even keel.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
At this point, I look at change as a challenge—as something that will make me grow. So my belief is that change isn’t bad, it’s a growth process.
The best thing about change is...
…it makes you question your beliefs and sometimes your ideas. And I think that a re-evaluation isn’t a bad thing. Your can go back and say, “I like what I see” or “I want to do X, Y and Z.”
What is the best change you have ever made?
Going out on my own as a sole practitioner. It was the hardest decision I ever made; it was gut-wrenching. But I made the decision and never looked back. You go ahead and the whole world opens up.
For more information about Gayle Rosenwald Smith, visit Divorceandmoneybook.com.