If 2015 will mark the first full calendar year since your divorce, January may feel not only like the beginning of a new year, but also the start of a new life. Divorce is a major life change, so what can you do to make this next year a change for the better? Besides all the usual New Year's promises of losing weight and exercising more, here are seven resolutions our team of attorneys and other colleagues who know what it takes to help you turn this first year post-divorce into your best year yet.
1. This year I will start planning my future. When you are in the thick of the divorce process, it can be difficult to think about much else. As part of your divorce settlement, you may have made basic plans about the future by taking steps such as deciding how to split retirement assets or provide for your children. Now that the dust has settled, however, it's time to focus on your personal long-range plan. Will your retirement be sufficient or is it time to start your own IRA account? Do you have a budget in place to help you with savings? Have you revisited your estate plan to make sure your former spouse is removed (if applicable) and new beneficiaries listed? Do you want to buy a new house? This is the year to create a new vision for yourself and list the steps needed to achieve it.
2. This year I will seek and accept emotional support. Now is the perfect time to check in with your emotions to see where you are in the grieving process of divorce. Are you still feeling sad or angry? If you haven't yet seen a therapist, resolve to pick up the phone and make an appointment. Talking through your issues with a therapist or counselor can be an important step towards processing and finally letting go of negative emotions. Needing time to heal from divorce is completely normal, but here is an important reminder: You deserve to feel good.
3. This year I will take action on any post-divorce legal issues. If your divorce settlement contains provisions such as the selling the family home within a specified time frame or establishes alimony or child support payments or a child custody parenting plan, watch carefully to make sure these agreements are actually carried out -- and resolve to take action if your spouse fails to keep up his/her end of the bargain. The conventional wisdom of "nipping the problem in the bud" more than applies to divorce. If your spouse does not abide by what the two of you agreed to, it may be in your best interest to file a motion to have the courts enforce that particular area of your settlement. Hopefully, none of this will come to pass. To be prepared for anything that comes your way, however, keep your divorce paperwork handy and touch base with your attorney to understand the red flags that might necessitate action.
4. This year I will make self-care a priority. When was the last time you put yourself on your own to-do list? All too often, I hear about people in their first year following divorce who splurge on things like fancy clothes or a flashy new sports car. This "retail therapy" might make newly single individuals feel good in the short term, but self-care is a practice that can really help with the grand scheme of creating a happy and healthy life. Examples of self-care? Keep a journal to explore your feelings, start an exercise program, join a divorce support group, resolve to watch a laugh-out-loud funny movie at least once a week, start a new hobby or rediscover an old one you once loved. Stay consistent with whatever you pick and you will probably discover how enriched your life becomes because of it. Rather than watch the paint fade on a new car, think of yourself as creating new passions to fuel the rest of your life.
5. This year I will put my children first. Child therapists will tell you that one of the keys to helping children of divorced parents feel loved and secure is for parents to make the effort to establish a positive co-parenting relationship. Can you, for the sake of your children, set aside negative feelings and focus on working together to parent your kids? Perhaps you can make it your goal to text your former spouse once a week with a brief update on how the children's school week was, or maybe the two of you could work up to celebrating your child's birthday as a family. Depending on what kind of relationship you have right now, 2015 might be a series of baby steps for both of you, but resolving to be there -- together -- for your kids is something that can provide your children with lifelong benefits.
6. This year I will enjoy the here and now. It might feel like there is a lot of heavy lifting required of you, but on the way to creating the life you want, don't forget to take time to enjoy the life you have right here, right now. Honor the journey of divorce and acknowledge the strength and courage you have shown in getting to the present moment. Get outside and take a walk, breathing in the fresh air. It's these kinds of simple things that can strengthen your resolve that 2015 will become the year of your fresh start.
7. This year I will deal with my problems head-on not headstrong. If this new year, alternatively, has you in the middle of divorce or at the beginning of a divorce decision, resolve to move ahead with as much knowledge as you can, learn about how the divorce process works in your state, be as prepared as possible both emotionally and financially, and seek the professional assistance, like a good divorce attorney, so as to have the support and help needed to continue successfully into this 2015 new year!