Going through a divorce can be extremely difficult and emotional. Unfortunately, the decision to end a relationship can set off a long and difficult process that not only involves the separation of two lives, but the division of a household and a variety of critical financial matters. Therefore, properly preparing for divorce is key.
For many people, dealing with feelings and having to work through preparing for the divorce can feel overwhelming. But as stressful as it is, you need to be able to force yourself to focus on and take care of many important financial issues that can impact your future.
When initially preparing for divorce, your first order of business is to seek advice from a lawyer who can help you better understand your rights and resolve specific legal issues. Even if you settle your divorce out of court, professional representation is important, especially when it comes to certain financial matters such as the division of assets, child and spousal support, and how your pension, savings and investments may be affected.
The following are some helpful dos and don'ts that can help you take those all-important necessary first steps in navigating your way through the process of preparing for divorce:
- Get the help you need — From a financial standpoint, it's important to enlist the help of a qualified financial advisor, money coach, or CPA. These professionals can help you with everything from creating a budget to reducing potential tax liabilities. Remember, when preparing for a divorce it can be essential to get your finances in order. From an emotional standpoint, you may want to consider individual counseling or joining a support group comprised of individuals who understand what you're going through. Don't be afraid to get the help you need.
- Cancel any jointly held credit card accounts — Prevent your soon-to-be ex from racking up debt from a jointly owned credit card. This can be as simple as phoning the credit card company and explaining that due to a pending divorce, you need to cancel the joint account and wish to open a line of credit in your own name.
- Establish your own bank account — Most married couples have joint checking and savings accounts. Protect what's yours by opening a new bank account in your name only. This is especially important if your paycheck or other funds are automatically deposited into your bank account. However, be sure to disclose all your assets if required to do so during the proceedings.
- Sign anything without your lawyer reviewing it first — Raw emotions can take their toll. It may seem easier to sign off on something while “in the moment” or if you feel pressured, however, don't be so quick. Protect yourself by running all documents by your lawyer who not only has your best interests in mind, but knows the law.
- Try the DIY route — Yes, a do-it-yourself divorce can be a lot cheaper, but there's a reason why divorce lawyers exist and charge the fees that they do. A competent divorce lawyer is keenly aware of any long-term financial concerns that you may not have considered - consequences that could affect you negatively in the future. Plus, they're your first line of defense when it comes to dealing with any unpleasant correspondence and/or contact between you and your soon-to-be ex.
- Post personal things on social media — Here's where you don't want to be airing your grievances about your soon-to-be ex or upcoming divorce. Social media platforms can be a goldmine of information for your ex's divorce attorney.
No matter where you are in the divorce process, know that you're not alone. Get the support you need and try to look at this life stage as an opportunity to write a new chapter in your life. We hope these few dos and don'ts will be helpful in protecting yourself financially, while allowing you to begin penning out that very first page of your new life.
This is a general overview regarding divorce preparation and is meant for nonspecific informational purposes only. If you have questions, concerns, and are in need of legal advice, consult with a qualified divorce attorney in your particular state of residence.