Divorce doesn’t have to be a nightmare!
Even amicable divorces can become contentious and messy when disagreements about child custody or financial matters arise. Many divorces start off messy and get progressively worse. But the end of your marriage doesn’t have to be a nightmare. There are steps you can take, even before the divorce process has begun in some cases, to prepare yourself financially and emotionally for the road ahead.
At some point, emotions run high in nearly every divorce. Even if the dissolution of your marriage is mutual, no children are involved, and you have minimal assets to divide, the end of an intimate relationship typically involves some level of grieving. This is particularly true when you have lived with a person for several years, sharing a bed, household chores, finances, laughter, arguments, and everything else that comes with marriage.
Tips for a Less Painful Divorce
The end of your married life together can quickly become a new beginning if you follow some important pre-divorce, divorce, and post-divorce steps. Read on for advice on how to prevent your divorce from becoming a nightmare.
Hire a good divorce lawyer.
Although you may be tempted to embark on a do-it-yourself divorce, this is highly discouraged. Even when divorces seem straightforward and friendly, issues can arise, and the smallest of errors can result in serious consequences. In the long run, hiring a good divorce attorney may save you significant money, and doing so will definitely save you time and stress.
But don’t just select the first attorney that comes up in a google search. Do your homework. Interview at least three lawyers and select a candidate who has a minimum of five years’ experience in family law, who seems competent, confident, and honest, and with whom you feel most at ease.
Review, organize and prepare your finances.
If you will be initiating the divorce, it’s a good idea to get a handle on your financial situation even before you file. A divorce attorney can help you review your finances to determine which debts and assets are jointly held and which, if any, are in your name or your spouse’s name alone. In a divorce, these debts and assets will need to be divided according to your state’s distribution law, which, in most states, is equitable distribution. In addition to the family home and any other real estate, assets may include vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other investments, artwork, and even a jointly owned business.
Equitable distribution doesn’t mean that assets are split 50/50. Rather, it refers to a fair and equitable division. If you are a stay-at-home mom and your husband’s income was used to purchase all of your jointly owned assets, for example, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will retain full ownership of these assets. In an equitable distribution state, the non-monetary contribution of staying home to raise the kids will be factored into property division calculations.
To get a clearer picture of your financial situation, it’s a good idea to gather any financial documents, including pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, and statements for mortgages, vehicle loans, and credit cards, as well as details of any investment accounts, appraisals of valuable artwork and jewelry, and a copy of your credit report.
Before initiating a divorce, you may also want to consider establishing credit in your name, especially if all of your existing credit has been shared with your spouse for years. Doing so can help you obtain a post-divorce mortgage or vehicle loan. To begin the process of establishing credit separately from your spouse, you can open a credit card in your name only.
You should also consider closing all joint bank and credit accounts before you separate, which will prevent both parties from making any financial decisions that could be used against you later in the process. When you are unable to pay off credit account balances, you can request that the accounts are frozen instead. Once the divorce is finalized, any remaining debt will be divided between you in whatever manner the court deems fit.
Determine a post-divorce budget.
Although living on one income may initially be challenging, there can also be a great deal of freedom that comes with figuring out how you want to live and the steps you must take to get there. You don’t have to be accountable to a spouse anymore! But to make this transition as smooth and enjoyable as possible, it’s helpful to estimate your expenses: what kind of housing do you want and how much will it cost, what’s the approximate monthly payment on the car will you drive, and how will you fund your retirement? Considering a post-divorce budget is also valuable when it comes to negotiating a divorce settlement.
Keep it classy.
From the beginning to the end, and hopefully even after, taking the high road will benefit everyone, yourself included. In addition to preventing inappropriate behavior that could be used against you in court, the conscious decision to remain calm, friendly, and compassionate has extraordinary physical and emotional benefits for you, your spouse, and any children who may be involved. Furthermore, calm, peaceful divorces are typically quicker and much less expensive.