10 New Rules for Breaking Up or Getting Divorced

Getting married is easy – so why is ending a marriage that no longer works so hard? (And expensive?)

Luckily, things are improving on that front, and the stigma around divorce is lessening. But we still have a long way to go. This is why we created Hello Divorce: to make the process easier and less stressful for all involved.

In my history as an attorney, I have litigated, mediated, negotiated, and collaborated on over 1,000 family law cases. And I can tell you that things are (thankfully) changing for the better. But it's not the system that's changing; it's the clients. An increasing number of people are saying "no" to high fees and messy court battles and "yes" to a kinder divorce process. And while we have a long way to go before consumers are really in the driver's seat when it comes to divorce, we are making good headway. By changing the way we "break up," lawyers will have to follow suit.

Since launching Hello Divorce, I've taken a clue from our awesome clients as I've watched how they gracefully navigate out of relationships and into the best version of themselves. So many of them are clear that they want their experience of divorce to be different than the prevailing thought about what divorce looks like.

Below are the new and improved rules for splitting up as modeled by many of our customers. This isn't to say break-ups aren't hard or divorce is easy – it's not. Never. But there are ways to ease the pain and use the crisis as an opportunity for growth.

1. Find a tribe of people who make you want to be the best version of yourself

One way to make divorce miserable is to spend time with people who constantly bash your ex, dwell in the past, encourage you to "fight," and stoke the fire.

To have an empowered experience of divorce does not mean you fight to win everything. Doing that will likely send you into extreme debt and keep you miserable. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, uplift you, and keep you focused on what matters most.

2. Learn about the process

One of the most frightening experiences of my life was navigating the legal system without understanding the system. It certainly is complicated, but it's not brain surgery.

First, learn the steps you need to take to get divorced in your state. Then, then chart a course for how you'll complete them without turning your whole paycheck over to a divorce attorney.

Usually, there's a Petition (sometimes called a complaint) to get it started. Then, there are financial disclosures, your divorce agreement, and related paperwork.

Get familiar with the general divorce laws in your state (from a reliable source). For example, if you live in a community property state, most of the income, assets, and debts you acquired during your marriage will be considered marital property. Understanding a general framework for what the law says will help manage your expectations about how your property will be divided.

Sure, you might need some help along the way, but that comes a bit later. (Keep reading).

3. Keep your divorce conversations productive

I know, easier said than done. But the last thing you want is for all communications to go through a lawyer. Why? It's expensive. And, well, have you ever played that game telephone as a kid? Stuff gets misinterpreted and turns ugly fast.

You may not have been able to save the marriage, but if you can do this together – if you can get through your divorce and to an acceptable agreement – that "win" actually has the effect of changing the relationship dynamic between most ex-spouses (for the better!).  The communication issues you had during your relationship don't magically go away after the separation. But there are a lot of things you can do to help move your divorce toward resolution, starting with determining what you really need and what you can live without.

Next, remember that divorce doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. You both can come out of the relationship with "wins" and heartfelt integrity.

Finally, use "I" statements when discussing divorce-related stuff with your ex, and watch your tone. Focus on yourself and what you want moving forward. 

Read: How to Keep Your Divorce Conversations Productive

4. Get help from a neutral professional who listens to your needs

Most of the divorce legal process involves logistics, and those logistics can actually be done largely without your spouse. (Who knew?) Of course, if you use Hello Divorce, our technology and account coordinators will make that part really streamlined and a lot easier. But you may need some extra help along the way, and that's where our experts come in. If you and your spouse need help to sort out financial, legal, or co-parenting issues, you can seek help from a mediator or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst – services that we offer in-house for a flat fee.

Gone are the days when both of you need to "lawyer up and fight" or rehash everything that went wrong in your relationship with a therapist. The goal now is to get to an agreement that works for both of you. An awesome mediator or CDFA can help you with just that. 

5. Consider flat-fee services or limited-scope representation

Mediators are amazing, but sometimes, you want advice from a trusted lawyer. Good news: You don't need to pay $10,000 and retain a lawyer. You can meet with a lawyer for 30 minutes, 1 hour, or a block of hours through us. Your legal coach will help you make sure your T's are crossed and your I's are dotted. They can help you get a gut check or discuss where you have leverage in your divorce negotiations.

At Hello Divorce, we offer flat-fee online advice sessions with a lawyer.  

6. Be respectful, calm, and direct

When you communicate with your soon-to-be ex about your divorce, it'll work in your favor to be the bigger person. As frustrating or even impossible as it seems to talk things over and reach agreements with your ex, try everything you can to do so.

Some good tactics that should put you both in the best place to keep your split as amicable as possible are:

  • Meet in person in a neutral space where you both feel comfortable and can speak privately.
  • Withhold negativity and focus on shared goals and resolutions.
  • Keep the best interests of your children at the top of your priorities
  • Be clear about your expectations
  • Plan ahead to make sure you both know who is doing what
  • Try to give your ex options to help them feel more in control

7. Set boundaries, and stick to them

You no longer need to worry about making marriage work with this person. Stick to the necessary interactions only. Do not give false hope of reconciliation or abandon your wishes to keep from hurting their feelings. It's time for clear boundaries.

Decide times and situations when you will communicate, and be firm on when you will not communicate. Back that up with your behavior – no answering or sending late-night texts, etc.

8. Take your time

You probably want to move through this breakup ASAP and get to the new, exciting chapter of your life – the one where there are unlimited possibilities, new friends, romance, and all the good stuff.

Every divorce or break-up is different. People react to it in different ways, and you'll likely move through stages of grief in a loopy path rather than a short, direct one. Give yourself the space and time you need in each step.

Read: Recovering and Healing from Divorce Grief

9. Practice self-love

If you've explored our platform or read some of my previous articles, you know this is my absolute favorite thing to remind people to embrace. Poet Nayyirah Waheed once wrote: "you. not wanting me. was the beginning of me wanting myself. thank you."

Perfect, right? Want yourself, believe in yourself, and stop giving yourself a list of "shoulds." (I should be feeling better, I should start/stop dating, etc). Just let yourself "be."

And while you're at it, download our self-care worksheet to design a self-care plan you'll actually stick to. Remember, our path to mind and body "wellness" is being "enough" for ourselves.

10. Focus on you and your children, not your ex

We can find a million reasons why our relationship fell apart because of our ex's actions (or inactions). What if we channel all those negative thoughts into what we want for ourselves and our relationships going forward? They don't deserve all of your energy, time, and attention.

Ultimately, divorce is not who you are. It's simply where you are at. Remember that.

Sometimes, the hurdles we face can feel overwhelming and paralyzing. Balancing work, home, and/or parenting is hard enough. Add in a breakup, and you're stretched thin. Just remember, nothing is permanent. You will find joy. You will find peace.

Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.