You might say “who would ever plan for a divorce.” While no one plans to divorce, the fact is that the divorce rate in the United States is about 50% which translates to about 2 million divorces annually. If you are in the midst of a divorce, understanding the process and knowing what to expect can reduce stress and make the process easier. It is important to plan before, during and after a divorce.
The divorce process consists of three phases: filing the necessary paperwork; discovery (research into the financial background of both you and your spouse); and disposition (possibly through mediation but sometimes through a trial). The top ten things to consider before filing for divorce are:
- Is this the right choice? Divorce is an expensive, stressful undertaking. Deep soul searching should be done before filing for divorce.
- Make sure to do your research. The laws in each state are very different. There are different timelines for divorce, as well as, the time you need to be separated before you can file for divorce. Also, you should find out how your attorney charges – whether it’s by the hour or paid on retainer.
- You need to set your goals. What are your goals for the future – both personally and financially? It’s important to determine your goals before you proceed with the divorce. There are many options to settlement that don’t necessarily require a trial. Mediation or Collaborative Divorce might be an option for you.
- Should you keep the marital home? Does it make sense financially for you to keep the home? A post-divorce budget will help you make this decision.
- What makes sense for custody of the children? The best interests of the children should be put forth. Does a 50/50 or joint custody make sense? Different situations call for different custody arrangements.
- Get organized. The more organized you are, the less you will pay in attorney’s and other fees. You should be collecting bank statements, brokerage statements, tax returns, mortgage documents, and retirement account information. It’s also a good idea to make a budget of income and expenses prior and post divorce.
- Joint accounts should be closed. If you have any joint credit card statements, you should close them immediately.
- How’s your credit? You should obtain a copy of your credit report.
- Hire the right team. It makes sense to receive recommendations for divorce attorneys from other professionals. You should interview attorneys to make sure that you are compatible. Also, remember that your attorney is not a therapist and they can only advise you regarding legal aspects of your divorce. Using your attorney as a therapist can be expensive.
- Take time for you. It’s important that you do what it takes to stay healthy both mentally and physically. Getting divorced is a stressful process.
*Adapted from Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts™