Brides will spend months, even years, planning their “dream wedding”. Vacationers will spend months planning their “dream vacation”. Yet a couple rarely gives much thought to planning their “dream divorce”. While a divorce is far from dreamy, planning your divorce is smart.
Planning can save you thousands of dollars, cut significant time off the divorce process, and help you build confidence around your decision.
Planning your dream divorce is an effective strategy for gaining your freedom.
What is Divorce Planning?
Divorce Planning (a/k/a Pre-Divorce Planning) is a process in which you build a roadmap of how you plan to exit the marriage. Planning for a divorce involves clarifying your goals, educating yourself about your rights, gathering information, exploring your options, and working with your legal and divorce team to customize a strategy that is best for you.
Divorce planning can address questions like:
- Where will I live during the divorce?
- How will I pay for things during the divorce?
- How will I serve my spouse?
- How much time will I get with the kids?
- How can we minimize the conflict?
- How do I time everything?
- How will I tell my children, family, and friends about the divorce?
- What is the plan to settle this?
Myths about Divorce
Divorce Planning can also help you overcome common myths and misconceptions that may be holding you back.
Myth #1 – If I see an attorney, that means I have to file for a divorce right away.
By seeing an attorney, you do not have to file for a divorce right away. In fact, seeing an attorney about divorce does not mean you have to file for divorce at all. You can begin planning your marriage exit strategy first and then file for divorce when you’re ready. By pulling in an experienced family law attorney to brainstorm your options, you are building the foundation of a team that will support you and guides you into the next chapter of your life.
Myth #2 – Divorce planning will make my divorce cost more.
Divorce planning is strategic and smart, and it can save you thousands of dollars. Think about a trip to the grocery store. If you go in with a list and coupons, your experience is efficient, and you save money by staying focused on getting the things you want and need. If you go in without planning and just a loose idea of things you might need, you end up wasting a lot of time and money on things you may not need, get distracted with “shiny objects”, and likely forget something along the way. Similarly, divorce planning can help you stay focused on what you need and avoid getting distracted by the things that will cost you in the long run.
Myth #3 – If I plan my divorce, it means I’m a bad person.
Divorce guilt is not truth. It takes courage to make the decision to leave a marriage that has been dead for years. Your children do not have to watch the two of you continue to suffer or learn that what they see is what they should aspire to. By leaving a bad marriage, you are not only freeing yourself, but you are also freeing your husband and your children. By planning your divorce, you are being proactive in protecting yourself and your children’s futures. That first brave step is the ultimate expression of love.
Six Steps to Take Action on Right Now
Divorce Planning can empower you to take control of your life. If you’re thinking about divorce and want to start planning, below are six steps you can take right now.
1. Don’t agree to anything yet!
The divorce process takes time. Your husband may threaten to take things away if you don’t agree. Or you may want to make an offer now and “strike while the iron is hot”. But resist the temptation. Talk to an attorney right away to find out your rights and options. Do not rush into an agreement that you will regret later.
2. Obtain a copy of your credit report.
If you don’t already have a credit monitoring service that provides one, you can download a copy of your credit report for free. You don’t need the score, just the report. Review the report to make sure there aren’t any surprises and to discuss how to handle debts in your name.
3. Set aside a “Rainy Day” fund.
Protect your money! You may need to open a new bank account or credit card before you file for divorce. You may need to move some money around (legally!) to protect you and your children from being financially strangled. Setting aside money to cover anticipated living expenses, medical expenses, and attorney’s fees is smart and limits the financial control your husband may try to use against you. If you’re not sure where to begin, speak with an attorney.
4. Consider a safety plan.
In situations where domestic or family violence is involved, plan smart and stay safe. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) has a safety plan you can download for free. Be sure to share it with someone you trust and get the support you need.
5. Reassure your children that they are loved and safe.
Your children will take their cues from you. Tell them that it is not their fault, even if they tell you they know that. They may put on a brave face, but if you’re feeling afraid, lonely, and devastated, chances are they are too. And if your husband tells the kids about the divorce without you, don’t freak out. It’s a jerk move, but it happens. Avoid pulling the children in the middle of things or blaming the other person. It may be hard to do, but it pays off in the long run.
6. Do not sign anything without an attorney looking at it!!
If you are presented with anything, do not sign it!! An unassuming Waiver of Citation can end up waiving your rights to your children, property, and right to a trial. An Informal Settlement Agreement that is poorly drafted or omits certain rights can bind you to an unfair agreement and have a ripple effect on the rest of your life. And if you’ve drafted something you want your spouse to sign, beware of potential errors in legal drafting. You may think to be agreeable or taking short cuts will make things easier, but you could be giving up valuable rights, making things more complex and expensive later on.
Not every divorce lawyer implements divorce planning in their practice. In fact, most don’t. But if you are apprehensive about divorce and looking for guidance, look for experienced family law attorneys who are open to discussing your options and empowering you with information. With the right guidance, you can feel more confident about realizing your dreams of freedom.