Divorce or dissolution is never easy, even if you want to end your marriage. It can be downright overwhelming if you don’t want a divorce, or if your spouse has blindsided you by asking for a divorce (or serving you with divorce papers). The divorce process creates a lot of upheaval. You are now facing a different future than the one you had planned with your spouse, you may be living in a new place, and your financial situation is likely to change. You will need to come to terms with all of these changes, which can make your life feel out of control.
One thing that can help you feel more in control of the situation is being as prepared as possible for what lies ahead. There are many aspects to preparing for divorce. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the things you will need to think about and do. While taking these actions may not be enjoyable, doing them will empower you to deal with the divorce process and move on afterward.
Assembling a Divorce Team
Everyone going through a termination of marriage process, whether divorce or dissolution, needs support. As soon as you know that divorce is in your future, you should begin assembling your “divorce team:” professionals and others who can advise you, listen to you, and help you weather the various challenges the process of ending your marriage can bring.
Your divorce team should, of course, include your divorce attorney, who will advise you about how the law applies to the facts of your case and advocate for your interests. But most people need more people on their team than just their divorce or dissolution lawyer.
It is usually a good idea to have a counselor or therapist to help you come to terms with the changes terminating your marriage by divorce or dissolution is creating in your life. Pre-divorce counseling can really help as well. Therapy helps you gain insight into your current situation and gives you tools to overcome it. Many of our clients have said that working with a good counselor was essential for moving on from their marriage and its termination—and to keep from making the same mistakes over and over again.
Depending on your situation, it may be wise to add a financial professional to your team, such as a Certified Divorce Financial Professional. A financial professional can help you determine what your financial needs will be during and after divorce; that can help your attorney negotiate more effectively on your behalf. If you’re not sure how to find a financial professional, your attorney can probably refer you to one.
Your divorce and dissolution team shouldn’t consist only of professionals. You will also want an informal support network in place. That might include a divorce support group of people who are going through the same thing as you; family or neighbors who can provide extra child care and give you a break when you need it; and friends who can listen to you vent and offer encouragement.
Preparing Financially for Divorce
Divorce isn’t just a legal process; it’s also a financial one. For some people, the financial aspect of divorce is most intimidating. If your spouse handled most of the money issues during the marriage, you may not even know how to navigate your own finances. Even if you were the partner who paid the bills, you may fear how you will make ends meet and be worried about whether you will have enough money to live on. Preparing financially for divorce can give you the tools you need to get through the process.
Working with a financial planner, as mentioned above, can allow you to create a realistic budget and understand what your needs will be. There are also things you can do to take control of your financial situation:
- Find out what assets and accounts you and your spouse have and get copies of recent account statements
- Get documentation of retirement accounts (both yours and your spouse’s if possible)
- Obtain a copy of your credit report
- Find out what debts you and your spouse are responsible for, including how much you owe on a mortgage or home equity line of credit and get statements for mortgage, home equity line, and credit cards
- Get a credit card in your own name if you don’t have one
- Find out how to separate your vehicle insurance from your spouse’s and get health insurance on your own (but don’t do it until the time is right)
- Gather copies of your last few income tax returns with your spouse
If just reading that list is making you hyperventilate, you should strongly consider working with a financial planner who can help you feel more confident understanding and managing your finances. Much of the anxiety around finances in divorce stems from lack of familiarity with the subject matter. Also, if you are unsure how to access some of the information listed above, talk to your attorney; she can request it from your spouse’s attorney if needed.
Preparing for Divorce Emotionally
There’s no way around it: divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster. That’s one reason we recommend that anyone going through a divorce work with a therapist or counselor. Learning to manage and enhance your own emotional well-being isn’t just good for you; if you have children, your emotional self-care benefits them as well.
Not having sufficient emotional support can cause you to act in a way that is not good for you or your children, including:
- Being nasty to your spouse or criticizing your spouse to your children
- Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs to deal with your feelings
- Rushing into new romantic relationships to avoid feelings of loneliness or abandonment.
It’s often easier to know what you should do than to actually do it, especially when your emotional reserves are low. Don’t be that difficult spouse. Getting the emotional support and coping mechanisms you need can help you be the best version of yourself throughout divorce and beyond, as well as to be the parent your children need.
It may help you to make a “prepare for divorce checklist.” In addition to the items above, ask divorced friends and family members what they wish they had known when preparing for divorce. People who have been through divorce can be a great source of insight—and encouragement.
To learn more about how to prepare for divorce, please contact Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates to schedule a consultation.