divorcingDivorcing? Don’t give it away.

Many women (and men) struggle to stay empowered during the divorce process. When the pressure is high, they give it away emotionally and financially. This can have long-term disastrous effects on their serenity for years to come.

January has been coined National Divorce Month. It’s when divorce filings surge. Depending on the circumstances, a divorce can take many months to work itself through, with lots of ordeals along the way. To help, we’ve gathered some tips to for how women can stay empowered during what can be a long road.

How to Stay Empowered During a Divorce

Get informed.

“One of the obvious mistakes women make is that they are uninformed.” This is advice from Psychotherapist and Divorce Mediator and Coach Paulette Janus. “They turn over all of their decisions to an attorney or judge. Part of becoming informed is that you want to consult with an attorney to be able to make your own decisions.”

Janus also suggests mediation and collaboration as an alternative to litigation. Benefits? Mediation and collaboration are less costly to your checkbook and your emotions. It’s important to know what the processes are, what the unique situation of the parties is, and decide which process makes the most sense for you. Bottom line? Participate in the decisions you make with the professionals guiding you.

Take care of yourself so your emotions don’t drive your decisions. 

Divorce is a significant life event. “It is the second most traumatic only to death of a loved one,” Janus says. “Being able to take care of yourself through that process, emotionally and physically, is really important. Not losing contact with friends—sometimes we forget about these things.

To make matters worse, “the other party may get under your skin, push your buttons or trigger you emotionally. Then it becomes hard to make logical choices verses emotional ones. It’s helpful to have a divorce coach who helps with emotions and what’s going into your communication patterns.”

Find a qualified attorney.

Joshua Haid, managing partner of the Women’s Divorce and Family Law Group, says it’s best to find a lawyer who specializes in family law.

“Hopefully you can look at references online or personal reviews. Find someone who it really seems will advocate for you. No one should do this on their own because what occurs during the divorce can have a significant impact on how you live your life for many years to come.”

Find an aggressive attorney, one who will do everything possible to avoid going to court.

“From a litigation standpoint too many lawyers are not taking advantage of whatever information they have early on in a case,” Haid says. “The lawyer needs to be aggressive and, most importantly, be willing to be aggressive … willing to sit down and work on a settlement because that is a faster, better and far less expensive way of getting through the divorce than litigating in court.”

Get financial clarity ASAP.

The laws impacting you may vary depending on where you live, but here’s one universal truth: Financial vagueness will not help your cause.

“Unfortunately, a fair settlement varies from one particular county or state to another,” Haid says. “To get a fair settlement, your lawyer needs to get a good picture of your spouse’s assets and debts. Using tools during the discovery phase, your lawyer can verify affidavits and disclosures to make sure you have a full picture of finances. You have to know how big the pie is before you can fairly decide how you can divide the pie.”

Make sure your lawyer uses pressure wisely. Don’t cave in to the pressure you feel.

When the going gets tough, remember you are tough. Rely on your emotional supports and keep going. Too many clients yield to pressure too soon.

“If necessary, a lawyer should use financial pressure against the other side so both sides feel it,” Haid says. “The first person to throw in the towel typically gets the worst end of a financial settlement. If the other side is feeling more pressure, that side is more likely to throw in the towel first.”

Get help with seeking out and enforcing a new dynamic in your relationship.

If you’ve endured dominant behavior from your spouse, Haid encourages you to use this as an opportunity to work on changing that dynamic moving forward.

“Too many women settle for the status quo of the same bad relationship they are leaving,” Haid says. “Very often you’ll find husbands used to being in a more dominant position in the relationship; and often you’ll have controlling men who assume the post-divorce relationship is going to be no different.”

Don’t fall into that trap. “The best way to avoid that is to say to your soon to be ex-spouse, ‘Have your lawyer call my lawyer,’ or say to him ‘tell him I’m not interested in that conversation.’ Don’t let your spouse force certain terms just because that’s what he wants.”

Do not, under any circumstances, tolerate physical abuse.

“If there’s any abuse going on, report it immediately to your lawyer,” Haid says. “In cases where there’s any type of physical violence, women should not be afraid to call the police.

Are you going through or have you been through a divorce?

What are your suggestions for staying empowered?

Share your experiences here.

Lauren Bittner is an award-winning freelance writer who focuses on women’s issues. She is a self-titled Giveaway Girl.

Learn more about Stop Giving It Away.