So many people feel freer and lighter than they have in months the moment they walk away from signing divorce papers. But it only takes a few days for that jolly mood to shift as questions about moving on after the divorce surface. With any big change comes some big hurdles, and the unexpected is challenging for anyone to tackle.
If you find yourself wondering what you should do immediately after your divorce, you're not alone. There's no blueprint for how to take on your new life, but that doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to come out on the other side.
Practical Things to Do After Your Divorce
You'll be better prepared to deal with the emotional fallout that comes from getting a divorce if you've got the frame of your everyday life settled. This includes finances, housing, name changes, and more. Not everyone will have the same practical needs coming out of their divorce, but there will always be some t's to slash and i's to dot.
Change Your Emergency Contact
If your marriage was even a little bit comfortable, then chances are your partner was your emergency contact. Change it to a friend, sibling, or parent in your phone, at your work, and at your primary care doctor. The last thing you want is your ex getting called in the event of an emergency years down the road.
File the Documents to Change Your Name
You don't have to change your name when you get married or when you get divorced, but if you don't want the last name you changed to and you haven't changed it during divorce proceedings, then you can do so afterward. The name-change process can vary state to state, but you'll likely need to file a name change request on your state's court website.
Then head to your local DMV to get it changed on your state license. There will be documents you need to bring, and those can differ for each situation, so contact your local DMV office for more information on how to begin the process in your state. Documents likely include a certified copy of your divorce decree and legal proof of your former name (such as a birth certificate).
Additionally, you can fill out the SS-5 form and mail it in or drop it off at a Social Security Administration Office.
Other places you might need to contact to change your name are:
- Voter Registration
- Postal Service Address
- Employer Information
- Banks and Credit Card Companies
- Insurance Agencies
Change Your Passwords
If your partner had access to any of your bank accounts, credit cards, email accounts, or streaming services, go ahead and switch that password to something new. They're no longer going to be in your life in that capacity and don't need to be able to have access to any of your stuff.
Open a New Bank Account if You Had a Joint One
Joint accounts are less popular than they used to be, but if you find yourself coming out of a divorce with a joint account, make sure you open a new one just for yourself.
Change Your Will if You Have One
While you've got your lawyer on the line, you might as well contact them about updating your will. If you have one set up, it probably states that your now ex-spouse was the beneficiary of your estate and assets in the event of your passing. It's a good idea to choose a different beneficiary and change you will. If you haven't set up a will, this can also be a good time to do it.
Empowering Ideas to Help You Move on After Divorce
The practical stuff, in many ways, can be easier to tackle when you're just coming off of a divorce. Now, the emotional and mental labor, that's a different story. Even if you were happy about getting out a relationship that wasn't working, there's still going to be a period of adjustment while you are moving on after your divorce. Embrace these empowering ideas to settle into this new version of yourself.
Sit With Your Emotions
A divorce, especially when there are children involved, can be an emotionless process. Lawyers and paperwork and financial negotiations are all things you can focus on to avoid dealing with the emotional impact of what you're going through.
Yet, you need to deal with those emotions before you can move freely into your new life. Don't bring that baggage around with you every day. Instead, sit with each emotion as it comes. Clinical psychologist David Reiss asserts that these emotions "cannot be completely eliminated." In his recommendation, you should process your emotions by acknowledging them and identifying their source.
So, cry if you feel like crying, rage if you're feeling angry, reach out to people if you're melancholic or lonely. Simply process the emotions in real-time instead of pushing everything down.
Make a Daring Decision
Life after divorce can open new doors. Really embrace your new life by making a daring decision you never would've been comfortable with during your marriage. Daring isn't synonymous with dangerous; daring to you might look like turning your phone off for a weekend or spending a chunk of money on a something silly. No matter what it is, it's a great way to put your newfound independence into practice.
Reconnect With Family and Friends
In the years leading up to your divorce and the year-long process itself, you might have distanced yourself from family and friends. Once you're out of the marriage, it's time to reconnect with the people you might have lost along the way. See what they're up to and ask them to hang out.
If it's been a while, they might not respond right away, but keep asking if you really want to have them in your life again. Post-divorce life can increase lonely feelings, so it's good to surround yourself with others who love you.
As Terri Orbuch's (author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship) findings explain, you can also use your friends and family as a resource to gain perspective on your past relationship. When you're so close to something, it's hard to see the mistakes you made along the way, and your loved ones can help you let go of the past by confronting it head on.
Life After Divorce Can Be Incredible
You've already done the hard part in settling your divorce. Everything after's comparatively easier. Now that you have a new life for yourself, it's time to start living it. And as these actions explore, the first steps are possible and can empower you to keep moving forward.