Divorce is generally something you can see coming because it’s not something that happens overnight. Divorce is usually the result of a marriage that has eroded over time, and as such, you can somewhat prepare mentally and financially a bit before the two of you decide to call it quits. In some states, a certain amount of time must pass before a couple is eligible to file for divorce, and then there’s additional time between when the case is filed with the court and when the divorce becomes final. Use that time to prepare yourself as best you can.
Turn to the Internet for Support
The internet is full of resources like survivedivorce.com designed to help you make it through this stressful time in your life. Even if you’re the one who wanted the divorce initially, there’s still a lot of emotions that go into the decision. These resources give you information about the laws in your state, how to handle financial planning, and more.
There are also support groups, comprised of people who are in similar situations, you can turn to when you feel like you don’t have anyone else.
As tempting as it may be to run out and open a new checking and savings account in your name only, it’s important to make sure doing so won’t come back to haunt you in court and make it look like you were hiding assets. Check with a divorce lawyer or financial planner to determine when it’s safe to start separating your finances and how to do so transparently. Understanding the legal process in your state is key to protecting yourself, because a seemingly innocent move could harm your case, especially if you’re seeking spousal support.
For instance, in some states like North Carolina where there is a one-year separation period where you and your spouse must live in separate homes before filing, dating during this period could possibly be seen as adultery and come with consequences.
Protecting yourself also extends to your mental health. Be gentle with yourself, and take as much time as you can to relax and reflect, so you can start your healing. Even if your relationship was healthy, mourning the loss of what was is completely normal. Try to avoid taking all the blame because it will get in the way of the healing you need.
No matter where you live, asset division is going to be where a lot of attention goes in your divorce. Regardless of whether your state is a community property state or an equitable distribution state, the asset division determines what you walk away with, which affects how you start your new life. The more documentation you can gather in the early stages, the better prepared you’ll be in the long run. Gather documentation for:
- Bank accounts
- Investments – stocks, bonds, mutual funds
- Real estate – mortgages, owned property
- Retirement accounts
- Credit cards
- Tax returns
- Business tax returns and holdings
- Personal property
- Any other financial information that could be used to divide assets
- Details on any other lawsuits you’re currently involved in
Consider Child Custody
If you have children together, the divorce will weigh heavily on them. If possible, talk it over with the children together and be clear about the fact that they did not cause the divorce and both of you still love them. Do not express anger or frustration with your spouse to or in front of the children if you can avoid it. If you’re thinking of changing your child’s last name legally, you need to consider the costs of changing their name and determine whether you can take that on or not at the moment.
Work with your spouse to come to a mutually acceptable agreement about who the children will spend time with and when. Discuss child support together based on who has the kids most of the time and who has the greater earning potential.
Most importantly, make an effort to keep the lines of communication with your spouse open. The more you can agree on ahead of time, the less likely you’ll have to get lawyers involved or have the court decide things for you.