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Now that the marriage is dissolved, you’re suddenly in sole control of your own fate, possibly for the first time in many years. So where do you go from here? There are numerous aspects to rebuilding your life that parents should begin to think about

A) Have a plan

It’s easy to feel lost and out of place in the years after divorce, and some people haphazardly wander around for many years before starting to figure things out. Now that you’re in charge, you might want to spend some time contemplating things like…

  • Where do I want to be in 5 years?
  • Where do I see myself living 5, 10, or 15 years from now?
  • What needs to happen in order to accomplish this?
  • Do I need to better myself in any way (further education, etc.) to achieve these goals?
  • If so, how do I get started on this?
  • Do I see myself marrying again? Under what circumstances?
  • What do I want to define my life in the future?

Once you have a good idea about what you want in the years to come, start to take some steps to get headed in this direction. It will help give you a sense of direction and purpose, so that you don’t waste these years wandering around like a deer in headlights.

B) When should I start dating again?

Don’t feel a need to rush into dating relationships right away. This is something people often feel compelled to do, either to try and keep up with an ex who left them for another person or because they feel a need to re-establish this aspect of their identity. But jumping in too soon can throw more turmoil into the lives of children, and it often leads to poor choices. It won’t serve your interests to jump right into a bad relationship that then takes you another year or two to get out of and recover from. So take your time, and date for the right reasons. There’s no rush, and it’s certainly not a competition with your ex.

C) Rebuilding your finances after divorce

Divorce causes a substantial hit to your financial situation, in more ways than one. Here are some things you might want to consider in getting back on track:

  1. Keep in mind that credit ratings may need to be established or rebuilt now that you’re on your own. Until this happens, having family help co-sign a loan or applying for in-store credit cards can help rebuild your credit rating.
  1. Just because you agree to separate your debt in divorce doesn’t mean that’s what will happen as far as creditors are concerned. Although a legally binding divorce decree is an important step in separating yourself from marital debts, it DOES NOT alter your agreements with lenders. You’ll have to take care of this on your own.

You’ll need to call the lender and figure out how the joint debt – whether it’s credit cards or a mortgage – can be placed in the name of only one former spouse. Sometimes lenders will require the original account to be closed and the debt be transferred into a new account held by you or your former spouse. At other times, a former spouse may need to refinance the loan independently, applying for a new loan based on his or her own financials.

Of course, this assumes that separation or transfer of debt was explicitly spelled out in the divorce decree. If it isn’t, you’re still on the hook for any debts you co-signed with your former partner.

  1. As stretched as things may be, try to start saving a small amount every month in order to rebuild a nest egg. You want to have at least several thousand dollars of cash on hand for emergencies.
  1. Think about retirement. If you had been counting on using a husband’s 401K, that probably isn’t there anymore. And remember, divorced parents are less likely to receive help from children in their golden years.

D) Rebuilding social support systems

In the years after divorce, having social support to rely on is extremely important. Yet the divorce can often remove much of the human capital one had before, as old friends and in-laws become less willing to help out. Here are some ideas for rebuilding this social capital:

  1. Look into single parent support groups that are in your area. It’s a great way to get to know people who understand your struggles, and thus are eager to pitch in to help one another out.
  1. If you end up moving, throw a welcoming party and get to know people in your new neighborhood. Be up front about your situation, and don’t be afraid to ask for help in areas needed. People are typically eager to lend support, especially if you offer to reciprocate in your own way.
  1. Rely on church organizations. Even if you’ve never been highly religious, there are now more mainstream churches out there that are more about community and less about religious dogma. This can be a great way to build social capital.
  1. Find time for social hobbies. Signing up for softball or bowling leagues, art classes, martial arts lessons, or other group activities can introduce you to new people and help build social capital.

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