Staying Organized Before, During & After Divorce

Tall Stack of DocumentsPeople contemplating, in the midst of, or recovering from divorce often are preoccupied with thoughts of uncertainty. Staying organized during this transition period can be hard but it saves time, money and best of all – peace of mind. Being organized allows you to gain control and feel empowered in a healthy way.  How?

Anna Bush, family law attorney at Bush & Heise law firm, says, “Information is power.” She believes knowing what information you need, what you have, where it is, and when to use it is the key to resolutions. She recalled an incident while visiting the home of a client who had been unresponsive to her requests for information. “When I stepped inside there were stacks of paper in the entryway. I asked her about it and she told me there was no more room under her bed.”

Avoidance is one of the unhealthy ways to deal with divorce. Amy Bash, Psychotherapist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Samaritan Counseling Center of the Northwest Suburbs says, “Stay connected.” A spiral of despair can occur when individuals isolate themselves. She believes divorce is a time to reach out and find support from family, friends and other resources.

Both Bush and Bash agree that staying organized throughout the divorce process is important. Interestingly, organization demands differ depending on what phase of the process a person is in.  In separate interviews, Bush and Bash describe this delicate balance of staying organized before, during and after divorce.

Before Divorce

Therapist Bash: The spouse who leaves may have spent a long time getting organized, while the other person may be scrambling. The number one mistake I see people make when contemplating divorce is not planning ahead. When you see problems that don’t get resolved such as alcohol, drug abuse, or infidelity start organizing. Know where your financial documents are. Make a list of your accounts. Know what it costs to live on your own and project that into the future.

Attorney Bush: It is typical in a marriage for one of the couple to not understand the assets. When contemplating divorce know what you have and gather information. What is the balance on the mortgage? What are your true living expenses on a monthly basis? For example, take your annual cost of electricity or car insurance and divide it by twelve. Know how much money is coming in and how much is going out on a monthly basis.

During Divorce

Therapist Bash: Be aware of the grief process. Your ability to act may be slower during this phase. Your appetite and sleep pattern may change.  The paper situation may become overwhelming. Create a file system so you are not weeding through stacks of paper, but are pulling information from your files. Create lists. For instance, before calling your lawyer write down your questions and have them ready. Create a contact list of resource people you may need – handyman, caregiver, or financial advisor.

Attorney Bush: Keep all your information in one place and by subject such as “Discovery,”“Financials,”“Investments,”“Retirement,” and “Court Dates.” You will get a piece of paper for every substantive action taken. File it where you can find it. In collaborative divorce couples can do this together. Also, listen to your lawyer – not your parents or friends. They can’t see outside the fishbowl. We (lawyers) give a reality check.  A well-organized client is able to give me what I want when I need it. This is empowering to the client. They aren’t waiting for someone to give it to them. Unorganized clients rely on me to find what they need. That can slow down the process and get expensive.

After Divorce

Therapist Bash: Plan your time. What will you do this weekend? As a single person/parent you may need to manage time in a different way. Some of the previous events you participated in as a couple may no longer be available. Work hours, travel, job search and childcare all need to be managed. Connect with new people to build your strength and confidence. You are an able person. You may need to downsize. List out all things and negotiate. Don’t fight over items. Lawyers are expensive. Let go. Sort out what you need. You are managing your environment.

Attorney Bush: After divorce you may be leaving your house. Figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. You will have a new life going forward. You are in charge. The divorce decree spells out the terms, any transfers, what to do and when. You may want to set up a bill pay system. Life goes on.

Can a professional organizer help during the divorce process?

Therapist Bash: I think it’s a worthwhile investment to hire a professional organizer to help. They are one of the resources many people can benefit from during this time in their lives.

Attorney Bush: Organization is a critical life skill. I recommend a professional organizer for some of my clients. I sometimes like referring organizers over financial planners because they show clients how to keep their records and manage their accounts.

Amy Bash ended the interview with these thoughts of those impacted by divorce.

“My hope is that people will not get stuck in what they are losing. It is possible to come out of it with a sense of fulfillment and freedom. They find within themselves a quiet, peaceful place. And outside, a community they feel connected to.”


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