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10 Essential New Year's Resolutions for Your Divorce

12/30/2015 11:58 am ET
  • Divorce Magazine Published since 1996, the magazine provides expert advice to help people who are considering divorce, currently separated, or recently divorced.

If you'll be newly single on New Year's Eve, take the opportunity to reinvent your life: make some powerful resolutions that will put you on the path to happiness and prosperity next year.

If you're going through separation or divorce right now, coping with the holidays can be challenging. Your life is changing anyway, so why not take the opportunity to reinvent it on your terms? This is the perfect time to make some powerful New Year's Resolutions that will put you on the path to happiness and prosperity next year.

As the editorial director and co-founder of Divorce Magazine - and as someone who managed to have an amicable divorce myself - I have been writing about divorce-related issues since 1996. At that time, I often found myself writing the articles I needed to read when I met (and later married) a divorced man with three young children. I was really struck by the lack of information and guidance available to those struggling with divorce: from property division to co-parenting to remarriage to stepfamily issues. Years later, when that marriage also ended in divorce, I once again found myself writing articles that would help me - and others struggling with the many challenges of divorce - make better choices.

So drawing from both personal and professional experience, here are my top ten suggestions for New Year's Resolutions for separated or divorced individuals. Use whichever items apply to your situation, or use it to inspire you to create your own list.

1) Complete your divorce this year.
If you've been dragging your heels - either hoping for reconciliation or to cause maximum aggravation for your ex - it's time to get clear on whether you both want the same thing. If your ex confirms his/her wish to proceed with the divorce, honor it and complete whatever paperwork is outstanding so you can start your new life in the new year.

2) Stop fighting battles from your dead marriage.
Resolve not to use your lawyer or the court to try to settle your emotional issues with your ex: it's the most expensive and least effective way to handle these disputes. Ask a therapist, life coach, or wise friend for assistance in working through these issues.

3) Update your will, trusts, insurance policies, and estate plans (if any). Revoke your will by literally tearing it up and making a new one. If your situation is relatively simple, you can make a basic will or living trust using software designed for the purpose; if your situation is more complicated, you should hire a lawyer to create these documents for you. Consider:

  • naming a new executor for your will.
  • updating your beneficiary designations for life insurance policies and pensions (unless your divorce agreement calls for your ex-spouse to remain the beneficiary of these).
  • naming two powers of attorney: one for medical decisions and one for financial matters. You could designate one person for both roles, or choose two different people based on each individual's knowledge and experience.

4) Meet with a financial expert.
Before finalizing your divorce, get some objective advice about how to achieve your financial goals from an expert who specializes in divorce issues.

5) Don't badmouth your ex in front of your kids.
At best, you will cause a painful loyalty conflict for them. Instead, encourage your children to love and spend time with their other parent.

6) Never withhold visitation or child support to punish your ex.
Children of divorce adjust better and are happier if they have frequent, meaningful contact with both parents. Also, child support is more often paid on-time and in-full when the payor sees his or her kids frequently.

7) Be cooperative co-parents.
For instance, try to accommodate reasonable requests to alter the visitation schedule from time to time. Both parents should be welcome (and should behave themselves) at the children's milestone events, such as graduations, weddings, and the birth of grandchildren. Children shouldn't fear having their parents in the same room - it will ruin their special days.

8) Start exercising regularly to banish depression.
Exercise triggers your brain to releases endorphins and serotonin, which block feeling pain in your muscles - but more importantly, it makes you feel happy. Study after study has shown the emotional benefits of regular exercise; in 2013, University of Toronto Ph.D. candidate George Mammen published "Physical Activity and the Prevention of Depression" in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. His review of 25 studies concludes that moderate exercise (such as walking or gardening for 20-30 minutes every day) not only treats but can also prevent depression in people of all age groups later in life. Try to make it fun to give yourself an extra boost: plan enjoyable bike rides or hikes, learn to surf or skate, take up ballroom dancing, get a dog and walk him in parks and natural areas daily. All this can be done when the kids are with you - and especially when they aren't.

9) Forgive your ex.
Here's a best-kept secret: forgiveness is as much for the person who grants it as for the person who receives it. If you don't forgive, you will be bound to your ex forever through hatred. Forgiveness will free you; holding a grudge (not matter how justified) will shackle you. You don't have to forget - remember the lesson, but forgive and move on.

10) Forgive yourself.
It really does take two to tango, and there is something about the breakdown of your marriage for which you need to forgive yourself. If you were blindsided by the divorce, you may have to forgive yourself for ignoring the warning signs. Divorce Magazine offers some excellent information about forgiveness; just enter "forgive" in the search bar and you'll find dozens of helpful articles at your fingertips.

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