Take These 6 Essential Steps When Divorcing

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By Leah Villalobos, CDFA, MAFF, Guest Author - May 05, 2017

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It took me a long time to decide to end my marriage. Ultimately, I decided that I could not raise my children in such a toxic environment. One of the reasons it took me so long to decide is because I was overwhelmed thinking about how my life would change.

If you are facing divorce then these 6 essential steps when divorcing are for you

1. Establish a support system.

Psychologists say that divorce can be one of the most stressful life events. Yet many of us are so ashamed about divorcing that we have trouble reaching out for help. There are lots of changes that will occur in your life as a result of your divorce and some divorces can get pretty nasty. Don't go it alone. When I got divorced, I lost a lot of friends that I knew through my husband. It was devastating at the time but my mom has always been my rock. She was an awesome support for me through my divorce and after, helping out with my kids and making sure I get time to myself. 

2. Create an email address for yourself to which your spouse does not have access.

Email is a necessary form of communication in this day in age and you can create one for free. You will need to have access to an email account that your spouse cannot access. This will allow you to communicate more easily with professionals who are helping you with your divorce. I highly discourage using a work email since you're not going to want your employer to have all of the details about your divorce.

3. Open bank and credit card accounts in your name.

If all accounts are in your husband's name, this step is absolutely critical. If you do not have much of an established credit history for yourself, it is going to take time to establish. If you already have bank and credit card accounts that are already in your name then you are a step ahead of many of us. If you are a stay-at-home mom, this step is crucial prior to the divorce as you will be able to include your husband's income in the household income. 

4. Organize your financial documents.

You will need to collect a fair amount of financial information to use during your divorce proceedings. I recommend creating a file or binder. Create 5 tabs or separate sections for tax returns, income information, asset accounts (e.g. checking or retirement accounts), liability accounts (e.g. credit cards), and insurance coverage. If there is a business involved, create a file for that as well. Collect the following documents and organize them by category.

  • Three years of tax returns
  • Recent pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Investment statements
  • Retirement/pension statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Loan statements
  • Business financial statements
  • Any other relevant financial information

5. Create a budget.

I know some of us cringe when we think about budgeting. Try re-framing how you think about budgeting and think of a budget as a guide that will help you stay on track. Going from one household to two can present a number of challenges. You'll need to know where your income will be coming from. If you have not worked for a while, this can feel pretty scary.

Spousal support (alimony) and/or child support might be part of your divorce settlement but it is unlikely that it will last forever. You may need to downsize to make ends meet. Get clear on what your expenses will be and make sure your expenses are less than your income so you can put some money away in savings, too. I recommend planning to save at least 10% of your income.

If you're not sure how to create a budget, there are lots of apps you can use as well as free worksheets online. I do mine in Excel. Along the top of the spreadsheet, I have all of the dates for all of the Fridays during the year. Along the left side, I have my income and expense categories. I put the dollar amount of the income and/or expense in the relevant category under the week when it is either received (for income) or owed (for expenses). This system works well for me but the important thing is to find what works well for you. It does not require any special tools. You can create a budget with just a piece of paper and a pencil. If you don't feel confident doing it on your own, consider working with a financial professional. 

6. Consult with an attorney.

Regardless of the process, you use to file for divorce, whether you work with an attorney or you file on your own, I always recommend that you at least consult with an attorney. Remember, the decisions made during the course of a divorce are legal decisions and it is for your own protection to consult with an attorney.

Remember, as much as you may feel alone, you are not. Many of us have been right where you are today. 

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