Your Divorce Planning Guide: 7 Steps to Prepare for Divorce
When you know a divorce is the final option, planning for the divorce is crucial to being mentally prepared, and financially prepared. In fact, the sooner you start your divorce planning (regardless of whether you have informed your spouse of your intentions to file for divorce), the better prepared you will likely be when it comes time to hire a divorce lawyer to file your paperwork.
You may not be sure where to start with divorce planning. Let’s review what we think are the 7 tops things to do to prepare for a divorce.
Do you know how much your spouse earns? Whether your spouse has any retirement or pension funds? And/or how much marital debt you and your spouse are carrying?
If you don’t, putting together a clear picture of your current marital financial standing is an essential divorce planning step to take. This is because, when it comes time to split up your marital assets and debts in divorce, having an accurate concept of what there is to divide up can be crucial to:
- Devising “equitable” and appropriate splits of the marital property (and debt)
- Identifying if or when a spouse may be trying to hide assets in divorce.
So, to start putting together this financial picture, gather copies of as many important financial documents as you can get a hold of. Some of these documents can include (but are by no means exclusive to):
- Banking statements
- Tax returns
- Credit card statements
- Mortgage and/or car loan statements (or titles)
- Documents related to pensions, retirement funds, insurance policies, etc.
If you and your spouse do all of your banking under a joint account, then another wise divorce planning step to take is to open up accounts that are in your name only. This includes both checking and savings accounts, as well as lines of credit.
This divorce planning step can be essential in that it can help you:
- Maintain access to your funds, as spouses may be tempted to drain shared accounts when they find out you are preparing to file for divorce.
- Start to reestablish your own credit history.
This is not illegal to do. In fact, if you know your spouse will exclude you from the joint accounts, you might want to withdrawal the money in the joint accounts and deposit into your new account. Obviously, this is an aggressive tactic used only in necessary situations. You are responsible for this income, so don’t spend it frivolously.
This is a key divorce planning step to take as soon as possible, as:
- It can inform you whether you may need to tighten your budget moving forward.
- Knowing your monthly expenses and diligently saving money now can ultimately help you save enough money for later if your income is cut off for whatever reason.
- Having a savings can generally help relieve your financial stress in the upcoming divorce process.
So, think about how much your monthly living expenses (with your children, if applicable) will be, and try to estimate conservatively to error on the side of caution. Once you have a number in mind, do your best to put enough money away so that you can cover your essential living expenses for at least six months.
Although this may seem like a lot to try to save, it can be achievable for those who start their divorce planning early (and, even if you don’t reach the goal of having six months of living expenses saved, getting close is still good and extremely helpful).
Given that your divorce planning may lead you to do things that require email or mail being sent to you. You may not want your spouse to see documents regarding things like new bank accounts or even attorney correspondence. Having a private address can be essential.
We recommend using Gmail for new emails. They seem to be the most secure.
Another important reason to set up a P.O. Box in your divorce planning is that it can help you maintain a single, constant address where you know that you can receive important paperwork while you may be living between different residences (like a marital home and a rental or a parent’s home).
While we’ve discussed some financial and administrative divorce planning steps up until this point, this step is more focused on mentally preparing for divorce, as knowing what you want out of the divorce process can help you:
- Figure out what you may want to fight for.
- Identify the issues that you may be more willing to compromise on.
- Assess whether options like divorce mediation may be suited for your divorce.
Even though you may need or want a divorce, you can still be bitter or intensely sad about it. After all, ending a marriage can generate a lot of conflicting, intense emotions, ranging from anger and resentment to grief and depression.
To help deal with such emotions, setting up a support system through friends, family, and/or professional therapists can be another great divorce planning step to take. In fact, if you have your emotional support system in place now, even if you aren’t feeling particularly emotional about your divorce at the moment, you will have the psychological safety net you may need later, particularly if your divorce:
- Turns ugly
- Brings up sensitive issues or information you previously didn’t know (like, for instance, a former partner’s extramarital affairs)
- Ends up having deeper emotional impacts on you for whatever reason
Here is a list of local marriage family therapists to contact.
Step 7 – Schedule a Divorce Lawyer Consult
Of all of the divorce planning steps revealed so far, this is the single most effective step. You need to get good legal advice on the best way to plan finances, custody, and more. You should discuss all the pros, and cons of your divorce. And every case has both. You may want to schedule one or more consults, to make sure you are getting sound advice. Not all attorneys think the same.
The bottom line is that, no matter how much you think you have prepared for divorce, nothing can prepare you better than an experienced divorce lawyer who has dealt with cases similar to yours and knows how to aggressively advocate your rights. Plus, a good divorce lawyer will have an idea of how the judges feel about your case.