Divorce can release two people from a miserable marriage and set them free to pursue happier but separate lives. However, going through a divorce is never easy. When divorce becomes inevitable, there are certain things that you should do to make it easier.
1. Be Proactive on Family Finance
If you have not been very involved in managing the family finances, start now. Be proactive, ask questions, copy important documents. Hands-off from the money affairs is the last thing you want to do if you are contemplating a divorce. To be specific, you should start to gather information as early as possible, including the creation of a list of family assets (real estate, valuable collections, jewelry, vehicles, etc..), and start itemizing debts, sources of income, expenses, insurance policies, and retirement plans. The more you know about family finances, the more comfortable and confident you will be when you negotiate with your spouse in mediation, or present your claims in litigation for a contested divorce.
At the same time you should also start to collect financial information for both you and your spouse for the last three years, including, but not limited to bank statements, tax returns, life insurance policies, credit card statements, retirement accounts, mortgage statements, loan applications, current medical insurance policies used by the family, and any other documentation evidencing assets or debt, such as loans with third parties, leases, and state and federal tax liens.
2. Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement which lays out the financial allocation of your assets during the marriage and/or in the case of a divorce, locate and review the same. You will need to review these documents with your divorce mediator or divorce attorney prior to your divorce being filed to make sure that the terms of the agreement are still enforceable. Sometimes, the agreements themselves are bifurcated from the divorce action and tried first if the agreements are contested by either party.
If you have a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement, you should have it reviewed by an attorney to make sure it is valid and enforceable.
3. Budget Your Divorce Expenses
Generally, each party bears their own expenses and attorney fees in a divorce. One party may have greater resources to pay for an attorney but the Court will usually allow for an “advance” of funds to the party with lesser resources to preserve the status quo. In either event, it is your money that is being spent and budgeting for your divorce can help you to decide how to pursue a divorce that is both appropriate and affordable. Deciding to use a divorce mediator, for example, is usually much less expensive and time-consuming than a contested divorce and can usually be handled on a flat fee basis for a couple of thousand dollars, total, plus the state filing fee. A contested divorce, on the other hand, could cost tens of thousands of dollars and will require a retainer by both parties to their respective attorneys of anywhere from $ 3,000.00 to $ 10,000.00 each or more, just to get started.
4. Try to Maintain a Better Relationship With Your Soon-to-be Ex
Once you have decided to pursue a divorce and the light switch is in the off position, it might be a good time to neutralize the damage to the way that you have both been treating each other concerning events leading up to the divorce and start eliminating any unwelcome conduct and… even start maintaining a friendlier relationship with your spouse. As hard as this may sound, the divorce process itself can be expedited if you get along well enough to get divorced. And when things are expedited, you save time and money. By doing so, you also make it less painful for your children and reduce any tension they may be feeling or pick up from the both of you and allows to the two of you to communicate better and exchange all of the necessary information that is needed to get you both divorced.
5. Educate Yourself or Consult a Professional
People are usually intimidated by the unknown. The more you know about divorce and the financial, tax and emotional ramifications of the same, the less nervous you will feel when the process starts. Since you are considering a divorce, get as much information as you can, on the law, the legal jargon and its meaning. If you have not decided to” lawyer-up”, you can also educate yourself by reading articles, using online resources like through the local Bar Associations. Note that most attorneys offer invaluable information on their websites and the first consultation with them is usually without cost. Take advantage of the initial consultation and ask a lot of questions. The more you know about divorce, the better prepared you will be to find the right attorney or divorce mediator and get the ball rolling.
6. Pick a Better Time to File Your Divorce
It is generally suggested that if possible, you should not wait until after the holidays to file or mediate your divorce like most couples tend to do. January is a very busy month for divorce mediators and attorneys and trying to schedule a consultation or get your divorce filed at this time can be difficult. It is better to spend some advance planning with your attorney or mediator at least a month or so away from the primary holidays or time period in which you wish to file.
7. Consider alternatives
You should be aware that litigation is not the only option to get a divorce. There are other alternatives available for people who are reluctant or cannot afford to go through a contested divorce, such as mediation and collaboration.
Mediation is a process where the mediator serves as a neutral third party and assists the couple come to a mutually-agreed settlement on their own terms. The mediator does not represent either party and empowers each spouse to reach a fair and reasonable agreement. Most mediators will also prepare the divorce filing, financial statements and the marital divorce agreement.
Collaboration is also an out-of-court alternative to obtain a divorce. Collaborative divorce involves the parties and their respectively retained collaboration lawyers, along with the professionals who form part of the collaboration team (such as appraisers, accountants, and mental health professionals). The lawyers are not neutral parties; they represent their clients’ interests during the collaboration process. Even though the lawyers will have different objectives for their clients, they will collaborate as a team to reach an agreement which satisfies both their clients. Collaboration tends to be more expensive than mediation and takes longer.
Although the collaborative lawyers and the mediator play different roles in the proceedings, they both strive to achieve a quick, cost-efficient, and amicable divorce. Going through either of these alternatives, as opposed to divorce litigation, is preferable for divorcing couples who are willing to cooperate, save money, and achieve a fair and reasonable result.
Divorce is definitely not easy. It is not the end of the world either. If you are currently contemplating a divorce, don’t let your emotions get the best of you and start preparing yourself accordingly.