Over 782,000 divorces took place in the US in 2018.
Of course, that’s a statistic. Your impending divorce is personal. Very likely, it will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever face.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, you will get through this. And if you feel overwhelmed at the thought of what to do when divorcing, we’re here to help.
From child custody to family debt and legal rights to bank statements, we’ll discuss everything you need to do to prepare for your divorce. Sit down, take a nice deep breath, and read on to learn more.
1. Talk to a Divorce Attorney
Do you understand your legal rights when it comes to divorce?
For example, what happens to the house, the cars, and any joint bills or debts? Who determines child custody? What if you or your spouse were unfaithful? What if your spouse won’t sign the papers and you need to seek a default divorce?
Divorce law is complex and varies by state. There are at-fault states and no-fault states. There are also complex laws that govern how assets are divided and where your children will live after the divorce.
Educating yourself is important, but a few late-night Google searches won’t be enough to give you all the information you need. The wise course of action is to speak with a divorce attorney so you have a clear understanding of your rights. You’ll also avoid unknowingly making mistakes that could hurt your case later on.
2. Educate & Prepare Yourself
Prepare a list of your most important legal and financial questions. It might also be helpful to write down your biggest fears and insecurities.
As you do some research or reach out for professional counseling, try to maintain a healthy, realistic mindset. Avoid vilifying your soon-to-be-ex. Don’t post anything on social media or in an email that could later come back to haunt you.
This is also the time to take practical steps to prepare for life after the divorce. For example, if you don’t already have some money stashed away, start setting aside a small “nest egg” of your own.
If necessary, set up a separate email account and browse in incognito mode. This will allow you to do research, make inquiries, and receive support without your spouse’s interference.
Finally, prioritize self-care. Getting divorced is one of the most stressful life events you can go through. Gather a team of trusted friends to support you and make sure you eat well, sleep enough, and get some exercise.
3. Make Copies of Everything
As you might expect, there’s a lot of paperwork that comes with a divorce. Get a head start by scanning or making photocopies of everything you’ll need.
This might include:
- Bank statements
- Tax returns
- Check registers
- Employee benefits handbooks
- Investment statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pay stubs
- Financial and credit card statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage documents
- Wills & trusts
- Social Security statements
- Vehicle titles
- Financial & business records (if your spouse is self-employed)
Bonus tip: This is also the time to protect your privacy, even if things seem amicable right now. Change the passwords on your email, social media, and financial accounts. Store scanned copies of documents in a secure place, preferably in the cloud.
4. Consider Family Debt & Assets
Money matters are probably one of your biggest concerns as far as what to do when divorcing. Again, preparation is key.
Start by making a written inventory of major household possessions. This might include:
When the time comes, the latter two might be sold and shared between the former couple. Jewelry, for example, can be easily sold to a jewelry buyer.
Don’t forget to factor in the contents of storage units, safety deposit boxes, or other possible locations away from your home.
Next, make a list of household expenses over the past year. Keep track of daily and monthly expenditures so you have a clear idea of your budget and cash flow. If your spouse owns a business or is self-employed, do your best to track all the money coming in and out.
This is also the time to examine your own income history and realistic earning potential. How’s your credit rating? Have you been out of the workforce for a while to raise a family? Start making plans now if you’ll need to go back to school or return to work to support yourself after the divorce.
Debt is usually the trickiest area to negotiate during a divorce. If you can, try to pay off some joint debts before filing for divorce. You should also determine if any debt was accrued before the marriage, as this should remain with the person who incurred it.
5. Make the Kids a Priority
Your divorce won’t just cause upheaval in your own life — it’s going to rock your kids’ world too. As much as possible, try to keep your children’s routines normal before and during the divorce.
If you can’t be in the same room as your spouse and kids without arguing, arrange separate times to spend time with your children. Get involved in your kids’ lives at school, after-school sports, and other activities. This is especially important if you plan to seek sole custody of your children.
Try not to badmouth your ex and drag your kids into the divorce drama. Even if you have legitimate reasons to complain about your spouse, doing so will only damage the kids’ relationship with them.
If your kids are old enough to understand, try to calmly explain what’s going on. No matter how old they are, assure them of the one thing that will never change — your ongoing love and support.
What to Do When Divorcing: Now You Know
Going through a divorce can be a stressful and confusing process. The key to success lies in knowing exactly what to do when divorcing.
Bookmark this article and refer back to it in the coming weeks and months. Take it one day at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be done with this challenging chapter in your life and ready to move on to a brighter future.
Now that you know more about preparing for a divorce, what’s next? Keep browsing our site for more stellar legal advice.