If you’re thinking about divorce, think back to your wedding. Even the smallest and most modest of weddings involves some degree of careful planning before the big day. Practical and financial arrangements need to be made, paperwork needs to be filled out, and friends and family need to be leaned on to provide much needed help.
While the emotions surrounding an impending divorce are far different than an upcoming wedding, both the start and the end of a marriage require thoughtful preparation and planning. Divorce is rarely easy, but by taking the right steps as you begin this important life transition, you can minimize upheaval and position yourself - and your children - for a bright and hopeful future.
Key steps in preparing for a divorce
You share a lot with your soon-to-be former spouse; this likely includes things like bank accounts, cell phone and Wi-Fi service, and other key services that are part of your day-to-day life. You will want to set these up in your own name so privacy and control are yours alone.
One of the biggest issues in a divorce is who will get to keep or stay in the marital home. This will ultimately be resolved through settlement or at a trial, but arrangements need to be made while your divorce is pending. Either you or your spouse will need to find a place to live other than in your current shared home. Try to have a plan that will allow you to stay elsewhere, even if it is with a close friend or relative in the short-term.
Gather financial information and documents.
Knowledge is power, and this especially true when it comes to the assets and finances that will be a central issue during your divorce. You will want to have a complete picture of your financial situation as you begin the divorce process, so prepare an inventory of all personal property and gather the financial documents and information which you can ultimately provide your divorce attorney. If your spouse handled the finances, bills, taxes, and accounts, you may have to do a little digging to get this information. Focus on assembling the following:
- Several years of your tax returns;
- Checking and savings account statement;
- Records of all investment accounts and pensions;
- Mortgage statements;
- If you or your spouse operate a business, secure copies of the business records;
- Inventory of the contents of safe deposit boxes;
- Credit card bills and credit reports;
- Income of each spouse
- Expenses of each spouse
- Assets of the spouses (joint and separate), including such things as art, antiques, fine jewelry, cash, vehicles, real estate and furniture
- Liabilities of each spouse
- Pension plans, retirement accounts, 401(k)s, IRAs, and any other employee benefits
- Life, health, and disability insurance policies owned by each spouse
Assemble your team.
You don’t have to – and you shouldn’t – go through your divorce alone. Establish a support system to not only ease your emotional burden but also to assist you with the practical and logistical changes that come with divorce. Lean on friends and family, seek professional help or clergy, or find support groups where you can share your feelings and experiences with others facing the same challenges and issues.
Of course, your team and your planning will not be complete until you have found and retained an experienced, compassionate, and effective divorce attorney who will be by your side at every step of the process.
You’ve made the emotional leap to begin a new phase of your life. Careful planning can help ensure that you step into that new phase with confidence and clarity.