My advice to all the women that are going through a divorce

I was married for 16 years to the man of my "dreams" in community of property. Twelve years into our marriage and we were struggling to keep it together. I was still in love with him, but we were not in sync. We were not fighting or talking. My ex is the silent types. I loved and hated that about him. There were times when I needed to know what he was thinking and I couldn't figure him out. It was frustrating, an emotional roller coaster that I wouldn't even wish on my worst enemies.

On year fifteen, he decided to initiate the divorce proceedings. I believe he was thinking about it for some time before telling me. I quickly learned that he had impregnated a co-worker. I was angry, and it took some time to come to terms with that.

We agreed that we shouldn't drag this on and on. But then he expected me to sign whatever he and his lawyer put before me. I had my own lawyer and we challenged his demands. In our divorce proceedings, he offered me full physical custody to our kids, which to be honest shocked me. I was at loss for words. I realised he wanted to be his new family and wanted nothing to do with us.

He also wanted me to have the house (the home loan paid off), and keep assets amounting to R 150 000. He wanted to keep the second house and contribute R 2000 for each child every month.That's when the fight started. I was not happy with the child's contributions.

While the case remained unsettled, I was already a single parent and battling financially. Besides the day to day needs of the kids and the lawyers fees, I was struggling to meet all my financial obligations. My ex didn't contribute anything. Despite the challenges, motherhood held me together.

Our legal battle lasted for a year and a half until his mother intervened and he agreed to pay full child support in addition to their insurance and medical bills.
I didn't want to punish him, but I wanted to make sure I could take care of my children. Even to this day, he has never requested to see his kids. I've tried to explain to the kids (7-boy, 10-girl and 14-girl) and in many "colourful," ways the reason why he doesn't call for their birthdays or come to see them but it hasn't worked. This has been one of the most painful things about my divorce.To raise the children that we both planned for alone. If I knew then that he would bail out on me like this, I would not have agreed to having three kids.

After the divorce, there was never a day when I was not overwhelmed. I struggled with a lot of  shame. After work, I used to lay in bed and just cry. I did not have the will to do much accept to take care of my kids. It took six straight years for me to find my feet again. I was an emotional wreck and that prolonged my process of healing.

This was six years ago. Since then I have navigated my way through a divorce and pushed the “restart” button on my personal, financial and professional life. Today my kids and I are fine, and we are a very close family. They have accepted that he doesn't want to be part of their lives.

As you work through that emotional process of your divorce, you also must take care of your finances, a task which requires you to be cool-headed. As difficult as it may be, you will have to begin thinking in terms of your future, not the past. Here is my advice to all the women that are going through a divorce.

- As soon as you know you’re getting a divorce, collect all the financial documents you can. These include the following: Bank and credit card statements, tax returns, etc.

- If you have kids with him, you need to evaluate their costs and ensure they’re financially protected. Negotiate expenses and child support to keep a child’s lifestyle the same through a divorce. Include everything from their clothes, groceries, transportation and their extracurricular activities.

- Although you have a lawyer who will take care of everything, it is also best to be educating yourself about laws relating to child support and division of property.

- Sometimes having peace of mind and good relations with your ex is more important than getting every last cent from them. Really think about what you want from the divorce, what story you want your children to know and what you want future interactions with your former spouse to look like.

-As you begin the divorce process, make sure you make the necessary changes to your various accounts. We shared two joint bank accounts. My ex withdrew R 15 000 from it without my knowledge. I only found out three days later. I was livid. Make sure that any joint accounts that you share with your ex are closed. Failure to do so could cost you a lot of money.

- If you kept the family home after the divorce, you need to refinance the home loan to have your ex's name removed from the loan.

-Make sure you are not burdened with your ex-partner’s debts, particularly if you have joint liabilities for credit cards or repayments. While we were married, he took R 450,000 in debt for his business venture which meant that half his debt is mine.

- If you have young children, talk to your lawyer before you name a minor child as a beneficiary. You may need to set up a trust.Otherwise, your ex-spouse may get control over any assets left to your kids.

- Consult a professional financial advisor. If you and your ex shared a financial advisor, I would encourage you to seek someone independent to help you manage your finances after the divorce.

My advice to all the women that are going through a divorce or have been battling through one, is to keep your children very close and focus on your future and theirs.You will look back at this time and be grateful for the opportunity and challenge to grow. Do not be afraid. You are not alone, you have your kids. You will be fine.

And if you do decide to take the leap again, remind yourself of the lessons you have learned from your previous divorce. Better yet, get a pre-nuptial agreement.

Written by Nobuhle Nzimande