This week on The Better Apart Blog, I welcome Kimberly Cook, Esq.  Kimberly is a compassionate and tough attorney from Chicago, Illinois.  A New Way Forward; Your Divorce Process offers some present moment reflections.

The last several months dealing with the Coronavirus Global Pandemic has taught us a lot about ourselves. It has shown us that we are resilient, know our own “risk” tolerance levels, forced us to focus on self-care and made us slow down our fast paced lives. Your divorce process may be just beginning or you are far along your divorce journey.  In either case, during both the good and bad days.  During this present moment, we have realized that all any of us can do is to take things “one step at a time”. We  have been reminded of the things that are most important in life – health, safety and surrounding ourselves with love. This time has allowed us to take stock of our lives and reimagine a future in light of everything that we have experienced.

For some, this time has allowed us the opportunity to explore new interests or reignite a passion for art, music, literature or theater that may have been quieted during faster paced times. For others, this time has allowed us to figure out what support systems work to sustain us during this difficult time. Whether cleaning out cluttered closets or repurposing the guest room into a home office, our lives have been re-organized in a way that is designed to push us through as we forge a path in the new way forward. This is not to say that these past few months have not taken a toll on us emotionally, physically or financially. It certainly has. This is not where any of us expected we would be when we exuberantly cheered in “2020” on New Year’s Eve. And while we are “in this together,” it is unrealistic to think that we have each approached or managed this experience in the same way. This journey has, and will continue to be, uniquely our own.

In many ways, divorce is similar.  It is the experience that no one imagines they will ever face on their wedding day.  While divorce impacts many families, it is a unique experience for each person. The divorce process is uncharted territory often with no clear understanding of what the future may bring. Just as the past few months have been a lesson in having faith and hope that better days are ahead, so can a divorce.

Divorce is a difficult process and one that should not be done alone. Therefore, it is imperative to find the support systems that work best for you. Therapy, whether individual or family, can help focus and identify personal behaviors, challenges or concerns facing an individual going through divorce. Therapy is not “one size fits all” but rather it is uniquely tailored to address a person’s individual issues and concerns in a manner which best suits them. Similarly, divorce support groups also provide an opportunity to understand the perspective and unique challenges others are facing while on their own journey.  Support is not limited to traditional therapeutic models, and finding the outlet that works best for you is what will be sustainable. Whether gardening, meditation, yoga, exercise or art, it does not matter as much what the outlet is, but rather that it provides support that works best for you during this time. Just like many have found over the last several months under the “stay at home” mandates, what sustains us may not be what we expected or what it used to be and being open and flexible to trying new things is the first step to re-establishing a support system in this next phase.

The phrase “out with the old, in with the new”, is significant in your divorce process, and not just as it relates to replacing your spouse! From old habits to old furniture, divorce can provide the opportunity for a “fresh start” in your life ahead. Memories, good and bad, are attached to more than just photographs. Often there is a struggle about whether to keep or sell the marital home. The decision is both emotional and financial. Whether you keep the home or not, it is no longer the same home that it was during the marriage. You are a different person than during the marriage and your home should reflect that. If you choose to keep the home, perhaps you will reorganize and refresh a space that works for you and your children. The same is true for wedding rings and other anniversary jewelry, which represents a special time in your prior relationship that has now passed. Redesigning the jewelry into a new piece, or selling it to purchase something to signify the future ahead, can be both liberating and a celebration of the wonders yet to come.

Divorce also provides an opportunity to refresh and reorganize your finances and estate plan. The financial impact which results from divorce, whether positive or negative, makes it very important that you take the necessary steps to re-organize your financial plan. You are no longer tied to the same financial plans established during the marriage and now have the freedom to create a plan that best fits your personal financial goals. Determining how to manage a property settlement or a spousal support award can be very overwhelming, especially if handling finances was not your “role” during the marriage. Working with a financial advisor, accountant, and estate planning attorney can be very beneficial to charting out and executing a new plan tailored for you. If you have financial obligations related to the divorce including debt payments, spousal support, or child support and child related contributions (e.g. expense reimbursements, college contribution), then it is imperative to formulate a financial strategy designed to meet these obligations while also planning for your future.

Even as cities around the world are trying to manage the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and approaching “re-opening phases” with some trepidation, there remain feelings of hope and renewed energy for the future ahead. Similarly, the uncertainty of a post-divorce future can be lessened with the reimagining and restructuring of your life as you see fit. A new direction for your life beyond your divorce process is right around the corner.

Kimberly A. Cook is a Partner with Schiller DuCanto & Fleck,LLP, the country’s largest matrimonial law firm, located in Chicago, Illinois. Kimberly is known for guiding her clients through complex family law matters including prenuptial agreements, divorce, custody and child support, with grace and dignity through their difficult time while giving them the tools to move forward into their best life.Kimberly’s legal work speaks for itself. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, has been named in Super Lawyers Magazine, listed in the “40 Under 40 Illinois Attorneys to Watch,” and named in The Best Lawyers in America. Kimberly received her B.A. from Spelman College and her J.D. from the Catholic University of America – Columbus School of Law. While in law school, she served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Gerald B. Lee, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and the Honorable John Mott, Superior Court of the District of Columbia – Domestic Relations Division. Kimberly spends her free time sharing her legal experience with the community as a speaker, volunteer and mentor. She is a member of the Black Women Lawyer’s Association and the American Bar Association. Her civic engagement includes her membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Jack and Jill of America, Inc. and the Economic Club of Chicago.
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DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. 

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