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How to Know You or Your Loved One Needs a Divorce Coach

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

Annie Allen, Certified Divorce and Life Transition Coach®

7 Signs You Need a Divorce Coach-- by Certified Divorce & Life Transition Coach®, Annie Allen

Most likely you’ve debated for years if you should keep trying to make this marriage work or whether it’s time to cut your losses and move on, until that single defining moment hit when you just knew you were done. D-O-N-E. Done. Not one single thing anyone could ever again do to change that. You are finally ready to close this chapter and figure out how to write a new one—come what may.

Or… maybe HE announced that he has filed or plans to… that he is the “Done One” with zero interest in working things out. Maybe you saw it coming, and maybe you didn’t. Frankly, it is just as shattering and disruptive either way. It’s a deep, raw, and extremely vulnerable feeling to know divorce is happening, whether or not you chose it. Up feels down. Down feels up. Nothing feels normal and you have no idea when or if it ever will again.

(Spoiler alert. It will. In fact, it’s going to be better than you think, eventually.)

For now, all that matters is you are getting a divorce. Wanted or not, it is happening. You’ve never done this before, yet you seem to sense that you must gather yourself and do it well. You’re a smart cookie. You have this gut feeling that the decisions you make now are going to have long term ramifications.

The questions are running through your mind nonstop: How much does a divorce cost? Can we afford this? How am I going to provide for myself? What if I can’t find a job? How will I support myself? Why is this happening? How much time will I have to give up with my kids to split custody? How are the kids going to handle being shipped back and forth between two houses? Will I get alimony if I need it? How much child support can I expect? Who can I count on to help me through this? Will all my married friends feel like they have to choose sides? Will they choose his side or mine? How do I even begin to think about starting over (or worse, starting to date again!) at this point in my life!?

And… one more question you may or may not know to ask, may be the most important question to answer. How do I know if I need a divorce coach? Here are 7 signs that you probably need a Divorce Coach. Place a checkmark next to each problem if it rings true for you. If you have 3 or more checkmarks, hiring a coach could be the best investment you make to get through your divorce strategically, wisely, and in the healthiest ways possible for now and for your future.

_____ 1. This is your first divorce. You have no idea what you’re doing, and the “what comes next” feeling of doom is intense.

_____ 2. Your brain is operating on pure adrenaline and fear. You feel like you’re drowning in “what-if” scenarios. The mental fog has made good decision-making feel impossible.

_____ 3. He took care of all the financial “stuff.” How do you even begin to find al the records and logins and statements and know what to do with them?

_____ 4. Your confidence is shot. You could be a CEO or a SAHM, but no matter what you’ve previously been capable of, you are now second-guessing everything and everyone—especially yourself.

_____ 5. You are seeing red!! E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G is making you angry.

_____ 6. You want to be the best parent you can be, but you honestly don’t know how in the middle of a divorce or from now on for that matter

_____ 7. The idea of life after divorce is killing you… earning a living, alimony, child support, garnishment, co-parenting, dating, retirement... you have no idea what you are going to do after the divorce is over and you have to face yourself and your new life. Who will you even be?

And honestly, this is just the tip of the divorce iceberg… the practical matters of your divorce. Then there is your personal pain. Your heartbreak. The grief of watching a lifelong dream die right before your eyes. The dismay of what all this says about you as a woman, a mom, a lover, a human. You have zero energy to deal with any of this stuff, let alone all the deeper heart issues that lie in wait and beckon you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to break down crying, no matter where you are.

Of course, you don’t know where to start! How would you know how to divorce or who to trust? You’ve never done this. If life is like a road trip, you, right now, are sitting on the side of the road with an overheating engine, a flat tire, a map that won’t load, and no signal on your cell phone.

What in the World Are You Going to do Now?

That is the only question that makes sense to ask right now.

As a divorce survivor turned divorce professional, there is only one thing I can tell you to alleviate all of these questions and worries right now: You cannot do this well alone.

And the second most important, and much more positive, thing I need you know is: You do not have to do divorce alone.

You are not your best self. You felt every single one of those things on that check list above and on top of being angry, exhausted, fearful, forgetful and disoriented. You aren’t sleeping, eating well or exercising either. And if you are like the rest of us, you may be drinking more than ever on top of that. And all of that is just making all the negative feelings that much more intense. Maybe the only solace you can find is when you tap into your inner IDGAF. (and if you don’t know what that is, Google it or ask a teen.) I promise, you are feeling it.

The problem is that deep down you really do GAF, and you need to, because every single decision that you make between the day you or your STBX (another Google ask if you don’t know…sorry, we don’t have to time to spell everything out around here!) file for divorce, and the day the judge signs your divorce decree, you are facing a long list of decisions: each and every one of which has real and long-lasting impacts. You simply cannot afford to mess this up.

Maybe you imagine yourself just walking into a lawyer’s office and dumping all into his or her lap. I mean, who else is there to address all this!? Maybe you already have sat in a lawyer’s office and bawled your eyes out. (Don’t worry if you have. You are far from the only one. I did it too!) But….

The truth is that no lawyer, despite being called a “Counselor at Law” has the desire nor training to provide therapeutic or coaching services. They will advise you on your legal options and the potential outcomes for each option, but they would really rather stick to the business of divorce than the story of it that you feel stuck in. In fact, one of my favorite attorney partners likes to say, “I cost twice as much and I’m half as qualified” when referring to clients who try to use their attorneys to do this kind of support work for them. In spite of that, women like you and I have been dropping tears in attorney’s offices for as long as divorce has been around. And as common as that may be (and despite the fact that I did it too), it is to your financial and emotional advantage to find the support you need outside your attorney’s office (and ledger).

So My Therapist will be my Divorce Coach?

That’s also a no. Despite how critical a role your therapist has played in helping you come to terms with the reality of divorce in your life, and maybe many other issues that you might continue to see him or her for, their line of work is also not prepared to walk you through the practical matters of the divorce process and the rebuilding of your new life after divorce. That’s where Divorce Coaching comes in. Your Certified Divorce Coach® offers something altogether different and equally important to legal representation and therapy.

Let’s revisit that road trip analogy that illustrates divorce as being overheated on the shoulder or in the shop with a flat tire. In that analogy, your therapist is your mechanic who helps you analyze and repair anything from your past or present that is causing your engine to fail or tire to deflate. Therapy is crucial for determining what has gotten you to where you never intended or wanted to be. But then what?

What Does a Divorce Coach Do?

Divorce is a major life transition unlike any transition you have ever faced in your life before. Like getting married or having a baby, divorce changes everything for a very long time in some very big ways that often deeply affect your identity and sense of purpose. More like the death of someone very important in your life, divorce is the death of something very important in your life—your role as a spouse and how you see yourself in the world. You probably feel like you are losing everything you know or that everything you have worked for and formed your identity around is disappearing. In some ways, you are right. This major life transition—almost like no other—is the moment in our life when everything changes and life takes on all new meanings.

For all these reasons and more, many women feel beyond alone and overwhelmed. And out of that great need has risen a professional skilled in this very transition (including all four stages of divorce: deciding, preparing, surviving, and recovering.)

An experienced Certified Divorce Coach® is trained to help you with every phase of the immense shift of divorce. They have expertise in helping you understand what you can and cannot, must and must not, do at any given part of the process, to align with your goals, needs and desires, and your best self. Though we often say otherwise, our goal during divorce should not merely be to survive— but to walk it out with poise and confidence, to make smart decisions that do not leave regrets, to ensure healing, and emotional and financial security for many years to come for you and your children.

Doing Divorce Alone is Not Inevitable—Or Wise

A Divorce Coach has one thing you cannot have right now and it’s the one thing that prohibits positive divorce outcomes—emotional detachment from the story of your divorce. You may think you are detached. Feeling done gives us that heady—albeit wrong—assurance. It is impossible for a living, breathing, feeling soul to be fully detached emotionally while a marriage is dissolving. You are not superhuman. And that is what it would take to be detached from your own divorce during its proceedings. You have to stop and realize that divorce is bigger than you right now. Divorce is hard. Your intuition is thrown off. Your decision-making skills are thrown off. You are probably feeling somewhat desperate every day for people to talk to who get it. The right people — not your emotionally scarred friend, sister or co-worker who got divorced years ago and never healed or has never gone through this. You need a thinking partner and a confidant who gets where you are, and can journey through it with you, without getting emotionally sucked into the vortex with you.

The mistakes you will make without this kind of support will be fueled by inexperience, stress and emotional overwhelm—and will be more costly than you might imagine. We can lessen and even eliminate those by buckling down with a CDC® to do the thinking work of deciding, getting all the important paperwork organized, and wading through all the specifics of your unique circumstances.

Your best friend and your sibling might be the perfect person for a shoulder to cry on and help with the kids so you can breathe a bit. Then, use those bolstered emotional resources to line up your divorce team—starting with the team captain—a Certified Divorce Coach® to align with you, and all the top-notch professionals you will need to support you. Your friends and family mean well, and will do their best to help, but they aren’t trained to provide everything you need during divorce—and they cannot be emotionally objective simply because they love you.

Don’t make the mistake many women do of thinking that hiring an attorney is job one. Before you decide on a lawyer, you have to decide what the right divorce process is for you, and you have to know how to select the right representation depending on your situation and whether you want to mediate, collaborate, litigate, or DIY. What are the pros and cons of each, and which is the best fit for your situation? Once you know that, then you can look for an attorney who practices that type of law. But you’ll immediately face a litany of new questions about how to know which attorney is right for you, does the least expensive attorneys do just as good of a job as the most expensive ones, and what about my unique situation… will they understand what I am facing?

Job One is Hiring Your Divorce Coach

A coach will immediately lower your stress level, for one. She will help you understand where you are in the divorce process, and as you help her understand where you want to end up, she will know what kind of lawyer you might want to use and all the many options available to you for each step of the process. Many divorce coaches are cross-trained in other divorce fields such as legal, financial, therapy and real estate. Your coach will also have a list of vetted professionals to recommend who have helped her clients well in the past. Your coach may accompany you to meetings with other professionals as your personal secretary making certain you’re getting what you need from the meeting—but more than likely will help you prepare and gather resources to feel competent and confident to handle such meetings on your own. Finding an attorney is just the first step your coach will take you through. Then, because finances will play a major role in your divorce planning, she will most likely connect you with a divorce financial planner to educate and assist you through financial decisions. Your coach will guide you through the many steps of determining whether and how to sell or keep the house, where to live, how to tell the kids, what documents you need to gather, how to execute the many decision points and so much more—like how to believe in yourself and to learn to trust your gut again.

Certainly, it is possible to get through a divorce alone. Many have done it. Ask a few of them if they have regrets. Ask what they would do differently. Ask if they would have hired a divorce coach if they knew one existed and what they could offer. When you know better, you do better. That’s the number one rule of divorce. That starts with hiring a divorce coach now that you know they exist and how they guide and empower you to get the support and protection you need. Align yourself for smarter more well-informed decision-making for you—for your children—and to create a life you can love for your future.

I'm here when you need me,

Annie J. Allen

CDC Certified Divorce Coach® Divorce Coaching

ABR, RCS-D REALTOR® Divorce Real Estate Consulting

Host of the Starting Over Stronger™ Divorce Survival & Recovery Podcast

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