Self-Care During Separation and Divorce
The word self-care gets thrown around a lot these days. Some people hear the term self-care with a more negative connotation: essentially, as an excuse to be selfish. Others see self-care as a necessity – the equivalent of putting your oxygen mask on first before helping someone else. As an attorney, I can tell you that self-care is important not only to my fellow attorneys – but also to my clients. Whether your divorce is amicable or contentious, divorce is hard for everyone involved. There are no easy answers or fixes when you believe that your family is falling apart. However, some of my best clients are those who have made self-care a priority as they go through this process. Here are some of the best self-care strategies to utilize to deal with the divorce process in a healthier manner.
Lean on your family and friends for support. Call or text them when you’re feeling down. Ask to get together, especially during the times when your children are with their other parent, as that can be a more difficult time during your separation and divorce. Don’t be afraid to ask your family or friends for help while you are learning your new normal. If someone offers to make you a meal, watch your kids, or help you around the house, say yes. Most people are looking for ways that they can actively support you through this transition and let you know that you are not alone.
Take care of your mental health. Divorce is one of the most stressful life changes you will ever go through. Seek a qualified counselor to support your mental health through the transition. Ask your lawyer for recommendations, if needed, as we have many clients who have successfully utilized compassionate, qualified counselors to assist them during separation and after divorce. You can also try meditation or breathing exercises to help you with the difficult emotions you might experience. There are many apps now that provide guided meditations and deep breathing exercises for free or low cost.
Try to get enough sleep, exercise, fresh air, and nourishment for your body. It’s amazing what a walk around the neighborhood can do for your emotional state when you’re in a funk. This is also a great time to try something new like hiking, recreational sports teams, or group exercise classes, which get you out of your normal routines and allow you to meet new people.
TIME TO REFLECT
Say no to overscheduling yourself, establish boundaries with your ex-spouse, and provide yourself with breathing room in your days and weeks ahead to process the range of emotions that you will experience during the dissolution of your marriage.
As you are deciding on co-parenting schedules, whether to sell or keep the marital home, or the logistics of how to pay for two households, know that you don’t have to make every decision immediately. Focus on yourself and put your oxygen mask on first before diving into the decision-making process. You have time to discern what you want to do next. Know that as your attorney, I am here for you every step of the way.
We work hard to make the divorce process as amicable as possible, but inevitably you will need healing along this journey. Engaging in some of the self-care tactics above can help promote healing and encourage you in taking the next steps forward in your new chapter in life.
When You Can't Afford an Attorney
Divorce will likely be one of the most difficult periods of your life. It is an emotionally and financially draining process that can be exacerbated when you are dealing with an uncooperative spouse and you simply do not have the means to hire an attorney.
At the most basic level, presently just filing for divorce costs $225 in North Carolina and $150 in South Carolina. Additionally, attorneys charge an hourly rate that often exceeds $250 per hour. If you read my blog post about the cost of a divorce in North Carolina, you know that a divorce with other issues involved like child custody, equitable distribution, and child support can rack up legal fees into the thousands.
Maybe you don’t have that kind of money. Maybe you were blindsided by the divorce and don’t have access to your assets right now. I have seen these situations repeatedly in practicing law for more than a decade, first with traditional litigation and now exclusively with collaborative divorce. It pains me to see families hurt. I would never casually encourage divorce or flippantly tell someone they don’t need an attorney. But I understand that sometimes, it is virtually impossible to gather several thousand dollars to fight your case. What do you do?
If you are willing and able, there are some free and low-cost resources available that can help you get started and/or finish the process.
Look for a non-profit law firm or organization in your area that offers low-cost or pro bono work for family law cases. Both North and South Carolina, where I practice, have organizations that provide free services if you meet their income requirements. Legal Aid of North Carolina and South Carolina Legal Services hold free do-it-yourself clinics so you can learn how to do a simple divorce or file for child custody. You may find an organization in your state that will charge you a small fee for helping you with certain paperwork.
Connect with an attorney
Call the North Carolina Bar Association referral service to get a lower-cost initial consultation with a licensed attorney to get you started. Find a Family Law Clinic at a local law school to guide you in the process. You may be able to meet with an attorney for guidance on a specific issue so that you can do it yourself. There are limited representation attorneys, who provide legal services a la carte. Some attorneys represent family law clients pro bono, although it’s very hard to find one to do so because family law cases can be very involved and time-consuming.
File for Divorce Pro Se or Unrepresented
You can file for divorce without a lawyer to represent you, but this should be a last resort. You do not want to potentially lose out on alimony or equitable distribution claims because you did not ask for them before you got divorced. Find the Divorce Forms for your state listed below. Check your local library for treatises and rule books on state family law, but make sure to confirm that they are not out of date.
Legal Aid of North Carolina Simple Divorce Clinic via Facebook Live or Zoom, or call Legal Aid of North Carolina’s HelpLine at 1-866-219-5262.
South Carolina Legal Services Divorce Clinics’ dates and times are listed on its online calendar. Check the website to find one near you.
North Carolina Divorce Packet on the North Carolina courts website.
Self-Represented Litigant Simple Divorce Packet on the South Carolina courts website.
The Mecklenburg County Courthouse Self-Service Center has resources where you can fill out the paperwork there and file.
Call or go online to the North Carolina Bar Association referral service at 919-662-8574 to get an initial thirty-minute $50 consultation with an attorney just to get you started.
NCCU School of Law has a family law clinic if you are in the Triangle area.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC
416 W. John St.
Matthews, NC 28105
Monday-Thursday 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Friday 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
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