Preparing for divorce sounds cold, calculating, and more than a little bit manipulative.
For many, it conjures up images of sleazy spouses who are determined to bleed their partners dry. For example, there’s the greedy businessman who spends years hiding his money in offshore accounts so when he files for divorce there’s nothing left to divide. Or the gold-digger wife who patiently waits until the prenup has expired before telling her husband she’s done.
At the same time, getting a divorce is unquestionably one of the major events in anyone’s life. So, is preparing for divorce really manipulative? Or is it actually smart?
Like almost everything else in divorce, the answer is: it depends.
When Preparing for Divorce, Motive Matters
Whether preparing for divorce is sleezy or smart depends both on your motives and on the kind of “preparation” you’re doing.
If your “preparation” includes hiding assets, diverting income, manipulating your kids, or doing anything else to disadvantage your spouse in your divorce, then YES! Your preparation is sleezy. It’s also dishonest. Depending on exactly what you do, it may even be criminal.
On the other hand, if your “preparation” includes learning about what you’ll be facing in your divorce, getting a handle on your finances, or researching good divorce attorneys in your area, then NO. Your preparation is not sleezy. It’s smart.
What’s more, if your spouse has been abusive, either physically, financially, or emotionally, during your marriage, then taking the time to prepare for divorce is not just smart. It’s absolutely essential.
Why You Should Prepare for Divorce
In most areas of life, people intuitively understand that being prepared is smart. The bigger and more important the issue that they’re facing, the more they want to be prepared.
That’s why people spend months, or years, planning their wedding. A wedding is (theoretically) a once-in-a-lifetime event. So they want their wedding to be perfect.
People are also willing to invest in their wedding being perfect. Many people spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) on their wedding celebration, dresses, flowers, photographs, food etc. (Although research has shown that the more you spend on your wedding, the greater your chances of divorce.)
Yet, somehow, even though most people will gladly invest time and money to make sure their wedding goes well, they’re reluctant to do the same with their divorce.
In a way, that makes sense. A wedding is a happy event. A divorce … not so much!
Yet a divorce affects your life just as much, if not more, than a marriage. That’s because when you prepare for your wedding, you’re investing time and money in an event. A wedding happens in one day.
When you prepare for your divorce, on the other hand, you’re investing time and money in your future. A divorce may be finalized in one day, but you can feel the legal, financial, and emotional ramifications of that day for years to come.
That’s why preparing for divorce is so critically important.
The Benefits of Preparing for Divorce
The more you prepare for your divorce, the more you increase your chances of getting the outcome you want. Plus, the more you prepare yourself for your divorce, the more time and money you are likely to save in the divorce process.
Being prepared for divorce:
- Enables you to get a clear picture of your finances before you start your divorce. That, in turn, will help you position yourself to manage your finances after your divorce better.
- Prevents you from having to worry that important financial documents will suddenly “disappear” once the word “divorce” is mentioned.
- Saves you money in attorneys’ fees. Your attorney won’t have to subpoena information if you provide it to him/her from the start.
- Gives you the time you need to prepare yourself emotionally for what’s coming when you divorce.
- Allows you to start planning for your post-divorce life sooner rather than later. Having a concrete plan for how you and your kids will survive after your divorce will dramatically reduce your anxiety and stress as you go through your divorce.
Because preparing for divorce is so important, it’s worth knowing the best ways to do it.
Here are 10 of the most important tips you will need to prepare for divorce as effectively as possible.
10 Tips for Preparing for Divorce
1. Deal with Your Emotions First.
Emotions drive divorce. Period. They drive every argument. They fuel every court battle. And they cause most of the pain.
The more you allow your emotions to run wild, the more likely your divorce will spin out of control.
Of course, controlling your emotions while you’re going through a divorce is no easy task. Divorce is hugely emotional. No matter what you do, you’re going to lose it sometimes.
But, the more you can learn to keep your emotions in check, the less drama you will experience in your divorce.
Because of that, the smartest thing you can do is to start getting a handle on your emotions as soon as divorce becomes a possibility in your life.
Get yourself a therapist or a divorce coach, or join a divorce support group, as soon as possible. Waiting until you have a complete emotional melt-down before you get help is guaranteed to make your divorce more difficult to manage.
Here are some articles that will help you deal with the emotional aspects of divorce:
2. Get Organized & Collect Documents.
Divorce is a document-driven process. You are going to need to put together a small mountain of financial information in order to get through your divorce. (Sorry!)
You’re going to need to gather your income tax returns, W-2 forms, paycheck stubs, bank statements, credit card statements, and tons of other documents.
What’s more, it’s not going to be enough to just dump those documents in a pile on your attorney’s desk. You’ve got to get all your documents organized too.
The more you can organize your financial information for your attorney, the less money you will have to spend to have your attorney organize that information for you.
Of course, when you’re going through a divorce, focusing on anything takes longer. Focusing on organizing financial documents (especially if you weren’t the one who handled the family finances) is even more challenging.
That’s why getting organized in advance is so critically important. The more organized you can be going into your divorce, the more grief you will save yourself during your divorce.
Your FREE Divorce Tool Kit – Getting organized is easier when you know HOW to do it. This free divorce tool kit comes complete with a document checklist, a divorce checklist, AND a divorce process comparison chart. You’ll also get tips on how to tell your spouse you want a divorce and more. CLICK HERE to get your Divorce Tool Kit now.
3. Invest in Your Education.
The divorce process is not user-friendly. It’s complicated and difficult. It doesn’t work the way most people think that it works.
The more you know about divorce before you start your divorce process, the easier it’s likely to go. But, getting the education you need can be challenging.
First you need to learn about the divorce process itself, as well as the choices you have today for getting through your divorce. Those choices include mediation, litigation, arbitration, and Collaborative Divorce.
Then you’re going to need to learn how you can get yourself ready for whatever process you choose. You’re also going to need to discover how to choose a divorce lawyer who will be right for whatever divorce process you use.
You’ll also need to know the basics about how finances work in a divorce. That includes understanding how property is divided in divorce, as well as how child support and spousal support (a/ka/ alimony) are set in your state.
If that sounds like a lot … it is! Thankfully, you don’t need to get everything figured out all at once. You also don’t need to know all the answers BEFORE you start your divorce.
At the same time, while you don’t need to become an expert in everything in order to be prepared for your divorce, knowing as much as you can will help you in a big way.
The best comprehensive, understandable, accessible, and affordable way to learn about divorce is with The Divorce Road Map Online Program.
This simple tool gives you access to a series of videos that explain every step in the divorce process, no matter what state you live in or which divorce process you use. It also gives you downloadable tools that will make your divorce easy to organize and easy to manage.
The Divorce Road Map also provides you with guidance on how to avoid the most common divorce pitfalls and save time and money in attorney’s fees.
4. Understand Your Finances.
If you don’t want to end up behind the financial eight ball after your divorce you must understand how money works BEFORE you start the divorce process.
That means that you need to get comfortable working with numbers. If that thought scares you, it’s time to get over it. (Sorry to be harsh!)
Like it or not, divorce involves money. Not understanding how money works (and not taking the time to learn!) is the single quickest way to get completely screwed over in your divorce.
(And, yes, that’s true even if you have a lawyer! A good divorce lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome of your divorce. But lawyers are still only lawyers. They aren’t financial planners and they aren’t magicians.)
You can’t divide your assets unless you know what you have and what you owe.
You won’t know whether you will be able to survive after your divorce, unless you understand much money you will have coming in after your divorce, and what will be going out.
If dealing with numbers has never been your thing, that’s okay. You don’t need to get a degree in higher math just to make it through your divorce. But you do need to start learning the basics of personal finance asap.
There are plenty of places online where you can learn the basics of personal finance.
If you want to learn the basics of personal finance in divorce, the Divorce Road Map is a great place to start.
5. Make A Financial Plan.
Understanding your finances is step one in preparing for divorce. Having a financial plan for your post-divorce future is step two.
Miss either one of those steps and your post-divorce finances are not likely to be pretty.
A basic financial plan requires you to create two things: A budget, and a balance sheet. Depending upon how complicated your finances are, you may be able to create both of those documents yourself.
If your finances are complicated, working with a divorce financial planner can be an enormous help. S/he can help you create a basic financial plan. A good financial planner can also help you create financial projections to show you how long your money will last, and how much you need to save to meet your future financial needs.
Many financial planners also work as financial investors. So, after they have helped you create a solid financial plan, they can also help you invest your money so that you achieve your financial goals.
Here are some articles that will help you deal with the financial aspects of divorce:
- 10 Financial Mistakes in Divorce You Don’t Want to Make
- 8 Ways Divorce Financial Planning Can Help You Avoid Costly Mistakes
- Divorce and Money: 8 Tips to Keep Your Ex From Hurting You Financially in Divorce
6. Assemble Your Team.
No one should go through a divorce alone.
Trying to go through a divorce without the right help is like trying to win an Olympic gold medal without having coaches and trainers. You might be able to do it, but the odds are against you.
In a perfect world, your divorce team should include professionals to cover every aspect of divorce, including the legal, financial and emotional parts of divorce.
That means that you will be wise to work with a divorce lawyer, a financial adviser, and a therapist. While that may sound expensive, there are ways to assemble a divorce team that won’t necessarily cost you a fortune.
While it’s always best to hire a divorce lawyer to represent you fully in your divorce, if that’s not financially feasible for you, then you may be able to hire a lawyer as a consultant in your divorce. (Doing that is called getting “unbundled legal services.” That’s now available in many states.)
Putting the right divorce team together takes time. If you can start interviewing and finding the right divorce professionals before you start your divorce, you will be prepared to move forward more quickly once your divorce is in process.
Here are some articles that will help you put together a quality divorce team:
7. Explore Your Options.
There are many different ways to resolve your divorce today, including through mediation, litigation, direct negotiation, arbitration, and Collaborative Divorce. The divorce process that you use can directly affect the outcome you get in your divorce.
But you have more options than just a choice of divorce process.
As long as you’re not relying on a judge to make your divorce decisions for you, you also have a lot of options about the WAY your divorce issues get handled.
For example, while most judges will order one spouse to pay the other child support, if you and your spouse can agree, there may be other ways to handle child support, especially if you share time with your kids on a fairly equal basis.
The same thing is true about dividing your assets. Even if you and your spouse agree that you will split your assets on a percentage basis, WHICH assets each of you gets is a separate issue.
The bottom line is that divorce is full of choices. There isn’t just ONE way to do anything in divorce. Being prepared in your divorce includes KNOWING YOUR OPTIONS.
After all, unless you know what your choices are, you can’t possibly make good ones.
Here are some articles that will help you understand more of your divorce options, and avoid the pitfalls that come with not knowing those options:
8. Set Realistic Goals.
The most important question you should ask yourself when you’re starting your divorce is incredibly simple. Yet, most divorcing people don’t ask it of themselves. Ever.
That’s because answering this question isn’t as easy as it seems.
The problem is that unless you ask yourself this question at the beginning of your divorce, you’re probably going to be dissatisfied with the result you get at the end of your divorce.
So what is this all-important question?
What do I want?
If you don’t clearly know what you want in your divorce, your chances of getting it are incredibly slim.
Of course, just asking yourself “What do I want” isn’t the only thing you have to do. There’s a catch. (Of course, you knew there had to be one, right?)
You can’t want everything!
You need to identify the ONE, or maybe TWO, most important goals in your divorce.
Why can you only have one or two goals?
… because having too many goals is like having no goals. You can’t focus on everything at once. Knowing what you want means being crystal clear on what matters the most to you in your divorce.
Finally, in order to achieve your goal(s), they must be legally and financially possible.
You can want your spouse to pay you $1,000,000 in your divorce. But if the total amount of your marital assets is only $100, thinking you’ll $1,000,000 is simply not realistic.
Here’s an article that will help you understand more about goal setting in your divorce:
9. Minimize the Damage to Your Kids.
If you have children, one of your top priorities is probably to make sure that your divorce doesn’t ruin their lives.
The key is to truly put your children first. While most parents intend to do exactly that, it’s easy to get so caught up in your own pain during a divorce that you don’t think about what your kids are going through as much as you otherwise might do.
So, a big part of preparing for divorce when you’re a parent means understanding what will happen to your kids in the divorce process, and then doing your best to minimize their pain. (And, btw, “kids” includes your adult children, too! Just because your children may be over 18 does not mean that they won’t be affected by your divorce!)
The kinds of things you’ll have to consider include:
- Breaking the news of your divorce to your kids in the most empathetic way possible;
- Supporting your kids’ emotionally as they try to navigate all the changes in their lives;
- Reassuring your kids that, no matter what, you love them and that your divorce was NOT their fault;
- Supporting your kids financially;
- Being honest with your kids about the ways that their lives will change after the divorce.
Whether you like it or not, your divorce WILL affect your children. You can’t control that. But what you CAN control is whether it affects them positively, negatively, or a little bit of both.
Here are articles that will help you understand how to minimize the damage to your kids in your divorce:
10. Make Peace With Your Divorce.
Getting a divorce is probably not what you thought you would ever be doing. It may go against everything you told yourself you believed in. It may crush your dreams of how your life was “supposed” to be, or what your future was going to look like.
Yet, divorce happens.
While most people associate the end of a marriage with failure, that isn’t always true. Ending an abusive marriage isn’t a failure. Ending a marriage in which you’re miserable also isn’t a failure. (At least, it’s not by my definition!)
What’s more, YOU are not your marriage. Even if – by your own definition – your marriage failed, that doesn’t make YOU a failure. It just makes you human.
Coming to terms with your divorce, and the whole host of emotions that go along with it, takes time. It takes work.
It also takes a lot of patience and kindness toward yourself.
Yet, if you’re willing to put in the work and be patient with yourself, you WILL get through it. You WILL find peace, and with it, a whole new life.
Here are articles that will help you work through your emotions and find peace both during and after your divorce:
Changing the Conversation in Your Head
Preparing for divorce isn’t easy or fun. Yet unless you’re prepared, your divorce is likely to be more painful, drawn out, and expensive.
Being prepared will make you more confident and will give you more control over the way things go down. That, in turn, will help to reduce your stress level AND put you in a better position to move on once your divorce is over.
(And yes, the better prepared you are going into your divorce, the more likely you are to get what you want coming out of your divorce!)
Does that mean that, as long as you’re prepared, your divorce will be a walk in the park?
Of course not!
But, at least it might not be an ultra-marathon through the bowels of hell either.
This post was originally written on January 9, 2019 and updated on June 10, 2021.