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Did you stumble upon this blog because you’re separated or facing a divorce? There are a lot of resources out there, and a lot varies by state, but here are a few basic things that you need to do immediately.

1. Tell your friends and family

It’s hard to do this, but you need their support more than you need anything else right now.

2. Protect yourself financially

If you don’t have a separate bank account, get one immediately. Move money into it, change your direct deposit to it, make sure you have what you need financially to get by. Figure out who you can ask for help if necessary. Consider freezing shared lines of credit if you anticipate that your spouse will use them to incur debt that you may be responsible for.

3. Contact a lawyer

Tell them you just want to talk about your options, and request a consultation with a family lawyer, specifically someone who specializes in divorce, if possible. They can explain your options, responsibilities and everything else you need to know from a legal standpoint. If you are not emotionally able to absorb all of this information, bring someone with you who can help you navigate these legal waters.

Here are some good tips on finding a lawyer:

4. Change the locks

If your spouse has chosen to leave you, they should not have access to the home they’ve left. Call a locksmith and have your locks changed (or re-keyed – it’s cheaper). If you don’t have a local locksmith, call around for a few quotes first – reputable locksmiths will charge you a flat fee for coming to your home plus a per-cylinder fee to either re-key or replace your locks. (A cylinder is anywhere the key enters the lock.)

Similarly, if you have moved out of the house, secure any valuable or personally significant items from the house before leaving, as you may lose access to these things at a later time. Even if your spouse is currently acting to imply or even saying that the separation will be amicable, things may change and you need to protect yourself.

**Note: I wrote the above based on my personal experiences. Please consult with an attorney before changing the locks on an apartment held jointly or a home which you own together. You spouse may have legal rights to the property. If you cannot control the space, pack any valuables or especially sentimental items and photocopy all relevant documents (evidence, financials, etc.), and keep these items in a safe space where your spouse cannot access them (like a safe deposit box or the home of someone who you trust explicitly).

5. Find a therapist

Find someone who accepts your insurance and start attending sessions regularly – at least once a week, more if necessary. You will need to work through everything that is happening, and as encouraging and supportive as friends can be, they are not trained professionals, and honestly there are going to be ugly things in your heart and mind that you may not want to share with people who you are personally connected to. A therapist will help you work through all of this. Someone who specializes in marriage or grief should be a good fit.

6. Document what happened

You may need to provide proof of any infidelity, abuse, etc. at a later time when word of mouth will not do. Write down exactly what was said, by whom, with dates and (if possible) times. Be as specific as possible, and do this immediately. Keep copies of your spouses’ emails or texts indicating the affair, if you have them (electronic and hard copies). Resist the temptation to embellish to make your estranged spouse look worse. Include photographs when appropriate.

Make photocopies of everything – bank statements, credit card statements, phone bills, mortgage/lease paperwork, paystubs for your spouse, etc. You will need these documents later and don’t want to lose them to your spouse. Keep copies in a safe place where your spouse cannot access them, like a safe deposit box.

7. Be selfish

Take care of yourself the way you would take care of your best friend if this were happening to her. Go get a massage. Eat out if you can’t bring yourself to cook. Spend time with friends who care about you, even if it feels like you’re imposing. Sleep and eat when you can (you may find you often can’t do either). Take time off work if you need to. Take care of yourself.

Please see this post about Reconciliation, if it is a choice you are making.

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