Considering the possibility of a looming divorce is daunting no matter what the details of the situation are. There are so many variables to assess that even knowing where to begin can start to seem like a near- impossible task. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to begin moving in the right direction. Scheduling a consultation with a professional can be a great way to get some of your biggest questions answered, and begin to understand the trajectory and scope of what’s ahead of you. If possible, confiding in a few trusted friends or family members will help you feel less alone, and bolster your support system for when things may become challenging down the line.
Knowing what initial steps to take when it comes to your finances may be particularly stressful. One spouse may be better informed on the situation than the other. Often times a discrepancy in earnings may leave one spouse feeling like they are at a disadvantage. In reality, the right strategy early on can help un- complicate things and allow you to move forward with confidence. Here are the 6 things I think you can do now, that will help shape the entire process of your divorce going forward.
- Prepare – Reading this is a great start! Keep reading, keep doing research; preparation makes you less afraid and better able to act. If there are elements you don’t understand, talk to your attorney or your financial professional before you talk to your spouse, so you don’t end up having conversations based on misinformation.
- Document – A common pitfall when starting this process is a lack of records and financial information. The early stages is the perfect time remedy this! Make copies of whatever documents you can find, obtain copies of your tax returns, review bank and credit card statements, as well as check registers to familiarize yourself with your family’s spending. List assets, debts, and separate property – this information will help early discovery meetings with your team of professionals be smooth and productive.
- Take Emotions Out of It – This can be particularly challenging when you’re at the beginning stages of your divorce. You are very likely still grappling with fresh anger or sadness, which is normal! However, it can be expensive and time-consuming to try to deal with those feelings in your attorney’s office. Remember, the goal shouldn’t ever be to make your spouse “pay” or to “win” the divorce, and if you’re feeling sensitive about something, try to go over it with a friend or counselor BEFORE you need to address it with your spouse or professional team.
- Take Control – Remember, no one cares as much about your future as you do, so be your own best advocate! Don’t worry in the dark – make lists and tackle them in the morning. Take control of bank accounts and investments so they don’t disappear (but NEVER conceal). Look into protecting your support with life insurance. This is your divorce, not your attorney’s, so do what makes sense for you, which brings me to…
- Build a Strong Team – Divorce is too complicated to go it alone; you need a team around you that includes friends and professionals. Hire an attorney that you relate to and that you trust. A good therapist can be extremely valuable so you don’t feel like you are “toughing it out” alone. Use a financial professional to help navigate the complexities of dividing assets so you’re confident that your settlement is fair and you are in a good position for what’s next.
- Plan for Your Future – When you are first starting your divorce, it can be hard to even imagine what your life will look like once it’s finalized, but I think that’s a crucial part of the process! Divorce and the resulting two households are expensive, so you may need to change careers. Look at what you are good at and passionate about – is it something you could do professionally? Will you need to negotiate extra support in order to go back to school? These questions play a big role in your quality of life AFTER your divorce, so it’s never too early to start answering them!