Updated: Jan 6
Are you really supposed to prepare for your divorce? Do people plan for a divorce? In a sense, yes. A marriage does not just end and divorce does not suddenly happen. It’s often a series of many unresolved issues that drive one partner or the other to decide to call it quits.
When you see the signs that your partnership is heading for a split, it’s time to think of steps you can take so you’re not caught unprepared when the divorce actually happens.
As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, I’m here to give you tips to help you prepare for your divorce so you just don’t survive it, you emerge empowered after.
The Benefits of Preparing for Your Divorce
It may seem scheming and manipulative but being prepared for a divorce that may be unavoidable is the smartest thing you can do for yourself and your family’s future. Divorce is complicated and overwhelming enough as it is. Going about the process in a haphazard manner not only makes it more difficult, it can jeopardize your future - emotionally, psychologically and financially. When you take logical steps in preparing for divorce, you are better equipped to make sound decisions. You are also able to deal with issues that can otherwise make the process of divorce more rocky than necessary.
Tip #1: Fortify Yourself Emotionally
It’s been said time and again - Divorce is a rollercoaster of emotions. In such a situation, you have two choices. You can get on the crazy ride and let emotions rule your every action and decision. This can lead to actions that may satisfy your need for revenge or retaliation but can hurt your chances down the line.
Or you can choose to take control of your emotions. Take advantage of sources of divorce support which can help you sort through the feelings you are experiencing. Whether it’s about feelings of betrayal, hurt, anger, or sadness, a good support system can help you fortify yourself emotionally, so you are able to deal with them in a healthy and constructive manner.
When you are able to control your emotions, you are better able to come to the divorce negotiation table with a calm and rational head. And this is a win-win situation.
Tips #2: Educate Yourself
Unfortunately, the adage “ignorance is bliss” does not apply during divorce. The divorce process itself is complicated and difficult. It’s important that you understand how the flow goes even before you start the divorce process.
There is a lot to take in. It would be too much to expect to be an expert, but you should understand the basics including division of property, child support, spousal support, finances, real estate, even child psychology and conflict resolution.
While this may seem challenging, having a grasp of things even before your file for divorce will help minimize your feelings of overwhelm when you’re in the thick of the divorce process.
If you have been a stay-at-home parent who has not worked for years, it’s wise to get the training and education you need so if necessary, you can re-enter the workforce to earn an income that can realistically support you after divorce.
Tip #3: Get Organized
Organization is the key to your success during the divorce process. One of the crucial tasks in preparing for divorce is to gather and organize financial documents. How organized you are can affect the quality of your negotiations and the resulting settlement agreement.
You can organize your documents into 7 categories: Income Related Documents These include, but are not limited to the following:
Paycheck stubs (your own) from all sources of employment over the last year. For those self-employed, tax returns or documents that show self-reported income.
Paycheck stubs (your spouse’s) for the same period of time as yours
Business expense documents for those who are self-employed.
Copies of joint or individual tax returns for the past 3-5 years
Financial statements or statements of net worth
Other information that will establish you and your spouse’s net worth and income, both individually and jointly
Real Estate Documents
Documents that show a legal description of any real estate jointly or separately owned
Current mortgage statements on any real estate property
Documents that show the initial purchase of real estate
In case of refinanced property, documents evidencing refinancing
Tax assessor's statements
Joint Financial Accounts Documents
Bank statements for the past 2 years from any account held jointly with your spouse
Savings passbooks and savings certificates of individual or joint accounts
Statements from investments accounts held separately or jointly with your spouse
Life Insurance Documents
Statements pertaining to life insurance policies on your spouse’s life, your own or your children - these may be individual policies or policies through you or your spouse’s employer
Documents on Marital Debts
Outstanding debts including credit cards, loans, medical bills and debts of similar nature in your name or your spouse’s name
Pension Funds Documents
Recent statements for pension funds, retirement funds, 401(k) plans, mutual funds or IRAs
Documents Related to Vehicles Owned
Registration for all vehicles (cars, boats, farm equipment, trucks, etc) owned individually or jointly by you and your spouse
Documents showing current outstanding secured debt on vehicles including payment coupons, monthly invoices and amortization schedules.
As you get into the divorce process, you’re bound to become distracted. Having documents organized will not only allow you to stay focused on issues but will also save you time and money down the line.
Tip #4: Understand Your Finances
Even if you are not planning a divorce, understanding your finances is important. When the dissolution of your marriage is imminent, knowing where your money comes from, where you spend it, how much savings you have does not only impact your current situation, it impacts how successful you will be financially after your divorce.
If you are preparing for divorce, understanding the basics of personal finance will make you better plan for your life after.
Tip #5: Plan for Your Finances
Once you understand your finances, It’s time to create a financial plan for your future after the divorce. This is crucial if you don’t want to end up homeless or broke after divorce. For starters, you can create a marital budget that outlines the current monthly expenses while still living together with your spouse. This can serve as your basis for creating one with projected monthly expenses after your divorce. Before you file for a divorce, make sure you can meet your monthly obligations based on this projected budget. Find a way to increase your income or decrease your expenses so you can stay within the budget you have set for yourself. A financial plan is just part of your preparation for your future life. Here are other steps you should undertake to plan for your divorce: ✔️ Save up for legal and other professional fees. Some women end up signing a disadvantageous divorce settlement because they did not have enough funds to hire a team to negotiate for better terms. ✔️ Open a new checking and savings account separate from all your other joint accounts. ✔️ Establish your own credit by opening up credit cards that are in your own name only. ✔️ Get a copy of your credit report and resolve any issues or disputes as soon as possible. A healthy credit score is important and is used as a basis for a car loan, finding a place to rent after your divorce, or even snagging a new job. ✔️ Take inventory of all personal property. This is property you owned before you got married. These remain solely yours and are not included during division of marital property. If possible, take photographic records so you know exactly what you have.
Tip #6: Explore Other Options
While you may think that litigation is the only way to go in terms of getting a divorce. Know that there are other options available. We suggest you do your research before deciding on which course of action you want to take.
In divorce mediation, a mediator acts as a facilitator who helps you and your spouse work out an agreement that each of you will accept. Mediation has several advantages:
It is usually faster and subsequently less expensive than going to court
Since a mediator helps you and your spouse talk to each other constructively, it is less traumatic (though no less difficult)
A mediation allows you to negotiate with your spouse and even make deals that will normally not be allowed in court. This gives you greater control over your life, your family, and ultimately your future.
This is similar to litigation with one notable difference. In an arbitration, it’s an arbitrator that decides the case, not a judge.
An arbitration is like a mini trial because you and your spouse, along with your lawyers, still need to attend arbitration hearings. However, compared to litigation, hearings are held in private.
While arbitration may seem more expensive than litigation because you do have to pay for an arbitrator, the process is usually less formal and more streamlined. This makes the divorce process faster and easier. This also means it's a more efficient and ultimately less expensive option than litigation.
This is a more amicable option to a divorce settled in litigation in court. The goal is to end the marriage with dignity and respect for both parties. This means you, your spouse, your respective lawyers, and other divorce professionals work together to negotiate an end to the marriage while focusing on meeting the family’s needs and addressing all concerns.
Tip #7: Organize Your Divorce Team
Divorce is not just a legal process. It’s equally financial and emotional, as well. In order to come out of divorce successfully, it’s important to have a team that you can trust to have your best interest in mind.
Finding the divorce professionals you can work with is a process that needs careful consideration (and time). If you think ahead and start putting your team together before you start the divorce, you’ll be able to proceed more efficiently with the divorce process.
Because divorce is challenging and oftentimes overwhelming, it’s important to enlist the help of family and friends to help you through it.
Your divorce journey is already made less daunting once you put together a team of divorce professionals and moral supporters on whom you can rely.
Tip #8: Focus on the Big Picture
What is your goal for your divorce? This is a crucial question to ask so you can work to achieve this goal. At the same time, it is important to set your goals so that they are legally and financially realistic.
Ultimately though, it’s important to focus on your overall goal - the welfare of your kids and your future. In achieving your goals, don’t get bogged down in fighting for what you feel your ex owes you or proving that you are right. When preparing for divorce, keep this in mind. It gives you a better chance at achieving a settlement you can be happy with while also ending a marriage amicably.
Prepare for Your Divorce - I Can Help Let me be a valuable member of your team as you prepare for your divorce. As an experienced Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, I can help you as you make decisions during the divorce process that will hugely impact your present and future financial situation. Because your success is my success, I provide information to help you make informed choices that help ensure that you not only survive divorce but look forward to an empowered and thriving future! If you need guidance with your divorce planning, contact me at (907) 347-3860 today for a free consultation. Tags: prepare for your divorce, preparing for divorce, what to do before getting divorced, divorce preparation tips, be ready for divorce
This information is not intended to be a substitute for seeking legal advice from an attorney. For legal or tax advice please seek the services of a qualified attorney and/or qualified tax professional.
Take Control of Your Future
When you consider divorce, or if you know someone who is contemplating divorce, one of the biggest realities for those in the divorce process is the financial settlement and financial analysis post-divorce. Get the assistance of Kimberly Surber, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®.
Kimberly provides step-by-step guidance on matters related to divorce. With a wide range of experience and expertise related to divorce issues, Kimberly will simplify the process and provide much-needed clarity in areas such as long-term tax consequences, asset, and debt analysis, dividing pension plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections, protecting support with life insurance, and much more.