How to divorce in 4 steps

Divorce advice and tips to save your sanity

When you’re thinking about getting a divorce, you’ll really need good advice. This isn’t only for dealing with the legal aspects, but also to ensure you survive the emotional roller-coaster ride of the process itself.

When you’re facing a divorce, you may feel that your partner is pulling all the strings. This might leave you feeling out of control and frightened. Perhaps you feel you’ve been abandoned in some kind of no-man’s land, just waiting for the next onslaught of bad news. Coping with divorce can seem nothing but a nightmare.

I’m here to help you survive this difficult time.

My top divorce tips (or really: professional advice on relationships and how to divorce) have come from years of experience. I’m a couple counsellor and specialise in marriage and relationship guidance.

In this article, I present my tips in 4 steps with essential information on how to make the whole divorce process as manageable as possible. Each step is like a subject you and I might have discussed had you come to see me for counselling – briefly or at length.

You may also want to have a look at my articles Divorce advice for men.

Photo: man and woman's arms with crosses on their hands. Text: How to divorce - 4 vital steps to avoid making a bad situation worse.

Step 1: Be prepared

You might already have chewed this over endlessly, and suffered many sleepless nights because of it. However, just in case… I wouldn’t be doing my job in guiding you if I didn’t discuss this with you. (I’ll accept the risk of being considered patronising!)  

So, here goes…

The following divorce advice is for you to consider before you and/or your partner decide that your marriage has reached the end of the road.

11 Things to do before you divorce

  1. Go for marriage guidance counselling (although this isn’t advised if you’re dealing with domestic violence), or …
  2. Use my Loving Communication Kit for Couples, even if your spouse appears to have lost all interest. This bundle has expert, action-packed and solution-focused tools to give you the best possible chance of turning your fortunes around.
  3. Consider face-to-face or online counselling for yourself – really, that’s the best divorce advice I can give you!
  4. Give careful consideration to how you will tell or prepare your partner if you haven’t already.
  5. Read my articles: How to break up and How to end a relationship – both have great divorce advice.
  6. Try a temporary separation for quiet contemplation, re-evaluation and/or sorting yourself out.
  7. Reflect on your own role in the difficulties, rather than just blaming your partner (have a look at my article Problem solving strategies).
  8. Explore alternative accommodation if you’re still living at home (do get some legal advice first).
  9. Consider all the financial implications of ending your marriage.
  10. Consider the effects on your children – see my article: How to help your child through a breakup.
  11. If you’re at all unsure about ending your marriage, then get my Marriage Compatibility Test to help you make the best possible decision.

Once you’ve done all that, I’ll be here to help you with advice on how to divorce and what it entails for you and your family. I can’t give you legal advice, but I can help you with divorce tips to lessen the pain of the process.

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Step 2: Divorce advice – how to deal with your emotions

7 Tips on dealing with your emotions during your divorce

  1. Be sure at all times to remain calm when talking with your spouse, however difficult that may be (there’s nothing to be gained from further rows at this point).
  2. Stay calm when you speak to anyone who is fond of her or him.
  3. Read my articles on children and divorce so that you can contain yourself when you feel pushed to the limit and want to badmouth your spouse in front of the children.
  4. Work off that wound up feeling with physical exercise. Any kind of sport – like aerobics, yoga or Tai Chi – can make a real difference. 
  5. Try to prevent yourself taking flight by drinking too much alcohol (see Stages of alcoholism) or by comfort eating, smoking, taking drugs or endlessly staring at a computer or television screen.
  6. Find a good divorce lawyer.
  7. Don’t for a minute think that revenge is going to make you feel better!
  8. Read my article: How to get through divorce.

It can be so easy, and perhaps understandable, to end up disillusioned and bitter. Much better, though, to let your troubles be the making of you – become more positive and forward-looking from now on


I will forever be grateful for your advice to handle the divorce in a way that inflicts the least pain on the family and ex-spouse and to come out of the process with the most dignity possible.

Some days are still better than others. But I’ve never regretted or second guessed my decision. I believe this is, in part, due to the wise advice you offer on your website.

Thank you again. You’re my hero.

– Kate

Stay calm!

You may well feel like screaming or hiding under the duvet. But I’d love to introduce you to something I think could really help much more than that…

Self-hypnosis! All you need to do is put your headphones on, and listen to some hypnosis downloads. You’ll feel tons better by allowing yourself to be soothed by one of these, rather than either crying yourself to sleep or lying awake for hours.

As well as some really good stress management downloads, there are some excellent ones specifically for divorce. For further information, hop over to my article: Hypnosis Download FAQ.

Consider divorce counselling

12 Ways divorce advice and counselling can help

A professional therapist specialised in divorce counselling should be able to help you:

  1. understand normal reactions to stress and loss,
  2. explore the possible reasons for the break-up,
  3. understand what might be going on for you and your partner now,
  4. communicate effectively with your partner,
  5. explore sources of support,
  6. discover appropriate services,
  7. identify and access your own personal resources,
  8. communicate with the most important people in your life,
  9. advise you on how to help your children through a divorce,
  10. facilitate re-engagement with each other if there is a glimmer of hope,
  11. re-engage with life and find new meaning if you need to,
  12. normalise feelings, thoughts and behaviours during this time of crisis, so that you feel better able to cope with your divorce.

Separation and/or divorce can unfortunately be a lengthy process. But I can’t tell you how important it is to keep the channels of communication open.

The right divorce advice from appropriate professionals can save your sanity and will ensure that you’re coping with your divorce the best you can.

Communicating effectively when you’re both emotional can seem at times impossible. However, remaining at the very least polite and co-operative is vital if you have children. 

You may be splitting up, but you are going to be parents for the rest of your lives.

Photo: Vector image - family torn apart. Text: 12 ways divorce counselling can  help.

Step 3: How to get divorced and not ‘divorce’ everyone else!

Based on my experience with couples, I have some divorce tips and advice for dealing with friends and family. The process of separation and divorce – with all its losses – will be much more manageable with the help and support of loved ones. Therefore take heed of the following…

5 Things to consider about your family and friends

  1. You might need or want their support and friendship – perhaps at least some of them.
  2. If not, you may still want to continue to see them (family gatherings, parties, etc.). 
  3. Or you might have no choice but to keep seeing them if they’re important to your children. In which case, it’s vital that you let your children know that they’re not letting you down or doing anything wrong if they want to stay in touch with them.
  4. Family and friends may feel the need to choose between you and your partner, though much depends on how you handle the situation.
  5. Many couples get back together again months or years later, or become casual or even firm friends (I know – it may surprise you!). So you might want to think twice about what you say to friends and family that you might encounter again in the future under different circumstances! 

There’s nothing that can help you understand your beliefs more than trying to explain them to an inquisitive child.”

Frank A. Clark

I recommend that you try to anticipate and plan for every possible reaction from your children, your family and friends – and those of your partner. This will help you to prepare for any expression of feelings and behaviours which might have otherwise surprised you.

My divorce tips are:

  1. Be careful what you say about your spouse to your friends and family (including his or her family), however difficult this is and however badly you perceive your partner to have behaved.
  2. Keep in mind the above possibilities.
  3. However much you might be provoked, always act honourably.

Step 4: Telling other people

One of my tips on how to get divorced is to tell the friends and family members you’re most often in touch with sooner rather than later that you’re thinking of separation or divorce. At least that way you have some control over how they find out. Your partner may want to tell their own family, but don’t count on it – and don’t assume that it’ll be done in the manner you’d hoped for.

Here are my tips for telling loved ones…

6 Steps to let people know your situation

  1. Call them to say you want to discuss something important. Calmly and kindly decline to say anything on the phone. Just say: “It’s very personal and I’d really like to tell you face-to-face.”
  2. Ask them when would be a good time to meet or visit them. You’d want to know that it’s convenient so you can prevent it becoming more stressful than it already is
  3. When you arrive and before you start, be sure that you have their attention – undisturbed – and that any children can’t overhear
  4. I’d suggest a gentle lead-in: “I wonder if you’ve been aware of our difficulties…” Then something like: “I’ve now decided that I want (or your partner’s name wants) a divorce”. Stop yourself saying anything negative about your partner at all costs. It’s best not to make any assumptions at this stage about who they’re likely to support.  Also, if at a later stage the two of you do get back together (every divorce lawyer will tell you it happens!) you wouldn’t want your partner’s relationship with everyone else in your social circle to be compromised
  5. Expect a reaction (see step 3). Just acknowledge that reaction, whether or not you understand it or agree with it. Don’t allow yourself to be led into a heated discussion.
    Say something like: “I know that this is difficult for you”.  Or gently say: “Of course you’re upset/angry/disappointed/worried…”

Lastly, family and friends who are on your Christmas card list but that you seldom see also need to be told – ideally. Consider simply sending them a card announcing the end of your marriage or long-term relationship. That may well prevent embarrassment later down the line.

Give people time to adjust

Remember that the more emotional we are as human beings, the more unpredictable our reactions become. Actually, the more emotional we are, the more stupid we become!

One of my best tips is to really leave time for others to calm down – whilst you’re there, after having delivered the message, and in the weeks to come. People will need time to process what you’ve told them. You too need time – right now it wouldn’t be helpful to make a permanent decision about whether or not you want to see them again.

Surviving divorce
How long it takes before you begin to feel better

There’s no doubt that the whole process of separation and divorce is hugely challenging. There’ll be decisions to be made, tears, stress, chores and children. You can’t afford to become a nervous wreck. The stronger you are, the better you’ll be able to cope and the calmer the waters will be.

My last bit of advice, therefore, is that you take time to invest in yourself. Do your own thing at least for some of the time. Steal that time if you have to.

Learn to relax and meditate – the benefits are immeasurable. Re-engage with friends and family for much needed support, distraction, fun, love and laughter. Stay away from negative people though!

For sadness and stress, also stay away from your doctor – antidepressants aren’t going to help. But natural remedies can relieve sadness and tearfulness, so explore those options if you want to.

Ideally you need to allow sufficient time, care and consideration to end your marriage well.

A good ending will help you to begin a new relationship more successfully – when you’re ready of course. That new relationship stands a better chance of flourishing when bitterness, hurt, anger and pain have subsided and children have settled.

Why rush?

With the right divorce advice, there’s every chance that you both (and your children) will recover sooner and better.

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