5 Things Parents Should Do After Separating From a Partner

Transitioning from married to single life can be hard—and so is knowing what to do next. Here are five steps to take after separation.

rope pulling apart on a colored background
Photo: Getty Images

If you have separated from your spouse, you may feel confused, hurt, emotional, anxious, and scared of what lies ahead. This is totally normal as you enter a new world full of unknowns. Fortunately, there are ways to ensure you make choices that will benefit you, your children, and your future co-parenting relationship. Educating yourself about the process, talking to your kids, setting boundaries, getting support, and prioritizing yourself are great steps to take during separation.

As a certified divorce specialist, I mentor people who are transitioning from married life to untying the knot. Most of my clients are grasping at straws for what to do next. Read on for five things I recommend all parents do after a separation that will very often take the fear out of all the unknowns that come with the divorce process.

Learn About the Legal Process of Divorce

Maybe you and your soon-to-be ex are going to let things cool down before you file for divorce, or maybe one of you is ready to get the show on the road. Either way, knowledge is power, and if you aren't an attorney who is already familiar with the legalities associated with the divorce process, now's the time to learn.

Hit the books or start Googling. Or better yet, get a recommendation for a good attorney or mediator and consult with them about the best way to handle your personal situation.

There is no one-size fits all approach to divorce, and there are so many options that are available to you. While some couples choose to forego the legal route and handle things on their own, I've always found that it's best to ask for help when it comes to something you know nothing about. And when kids are involved, you'll want to know as much as you can so that you can make decisions that are in their best interests.

Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

There are very healthy ways to talk to your children about divorce, and using age-appropriate books are a great tool. When you and your ex-spouse feel comfortable to have the conversation with the kids, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Plan what you will say in advance so that you're both on the same page.
  • Speak to them as a family.
  • Develop a narrative that doesn't assign blame.
  • Be honest and clear, not vague and confusing.

Kids need answers and boundaries now so they are not left with hope that there will be a reconciliation down the road.

Set Boundaries

While the physical separation that comes at the end of a marriage is a tangible next step, the emotional separation is often harder to grasp and far less defined. You may have been emotionally connected to your spouse for so long that untying yourself emotionally takes more work than you anticipated.

One way that I advise clients to learn to separate themselves from seeking approval, looking for validation, or remaining emotionally connected to a spouse is by learning to declare, not ask. An example of this would be keeping your soon-to-be-ex on a need-to-know basis, and saying things like, "I am going to start looking at new apartments," instead of asking, "Can I start looking for new apartments?"

This sets the boundary that says, "I am gaining my independence now, and you don't have access to all parts of my life anymore." It's a hard one to enforce, but the sooner you're able to cut ties emotionally, the cleaner your divorce process will be.

Establish Your Village

Single parenthood is a whole sport in itself that someone forgot to add to the Olympics. You couldn't train for the Olympics on your own, and you are much better off asking for help to "train" or get comfortable with single parenthood. So, don't be shy—call on your village to help you deal with your pending divorce, both emotionally and physically.

When you begin reaching out to family and friends for help, you'll start to see who is willing to let you lean on them. The people who check in on you and offer you a listening ear are people you want to make part of your permanent village.

Find a support group, coach, or therapist to add to that mix and you are golden.

Fall in Love With You Again

Not many people realize this, but while ending a marriage may be the death of a relationship, it is also very much rife with opportunity. The best opportunity I found in my experience with divorce was being able to reconnect with myself—all of me, the good and bad.

I got back to doing what I loved most which were things I never really got around to doing in my marriage for one reason or another. I committed to working out regularly, weekly dinners or coffee dates with my friends, and one-on-one time with all of the Netflix shows I had been dying to binge.

I used my alone time to write and read more, something that really served to heal me, and something I recommend to everyone I work with. I healed all of the broken parts of me that came to the surface in my first marriage with the help of an amazing therapist. I made myself a priority for the first time in a long time, and I don't regret any minute of that.

When all else fails, remember that this too shall pass, and you can make it anywhere by simply putting one foot in front of the other, taking each day at a time, and not driving yourself mad with "what ifs."

Michelle Dempsey-Multack is a mother, writer, certified divorce specialist, speaker, marketing expert, and fierce girl-gang enthusiast. A native New Yorker, Michelle now resides in Miami with her 4-year-old daughter, Bella, her husband Spencer, a beautiful step-daughter, and a very needy cat. Purchase Michelle's book, Moms Moving On: Real Life Advice for Conquering Divorce, Co-Parenting Through Conflict, and Becoming Your Best Self.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles