January 9

Preparing for Divorce: The Top 10 Tips You’ve Got to Know in 2019

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dealing with divorce, deciding to divorce, divorce blog, divorce tips


Preparing for divorce seems like the ultimate betrayal.

It conjures up images of the greedy businessman who hides all of his money in off-shore accounts right before he divorces his wife. Or the gold-digger wife who patiently waits until the pre-nup has expired before telling her husband she’s done.

Preparing for divorce sounds cold, calculating, and more than a little bit manipulative.

But, is it?

Scheming young woman preparing for divorce.Is Preparing for Divorce Dishonest?

Many people can’t bear to have others think of them as home-wreckers. They don’t want to look manipulative.  They don’t others to think that they stayed in a dead marriage just long enough to put themselves in the best possible financial position to get divorced.

Yet, preparing for a divorce doesn’t have to be devious.

For example, if you are a stay-at-home mom and you haven’t worked for the last ten years, preparing for divorce might mean getting yourself the training and education you need to re-enter the workforce and earn a livable income.

If you are living paycheck to paycheck, preparing for divorce might mean saving enough money to pay for the professional fees in advance so that your divorce doesn’t saddle you or your spouse with debt you can’t pay.

If you are a parent, preparing for divorce might mean meeting with a child psychologist to learn what you and your spouse can do to minimize the damage that divorce does to your kids. That way, you can help your kids transition smoothly, instead of piling so much emotional garbage on them that they have to spend the rest of their lives in therapy.

The bottom line is that preparing for divorce doesn’t have to be evil. On the contrary, it can be one of the smartest things you ever do.

Sad man in a blue parka thinking about preparing for divorceThe Benefits of Preparing for Divorce

The more prepared you are for any life event, the more likely it is to go well. That’s why people spend months, or years, planning their wedding. They want their wedding to be perfect. They want their wedding to go off without a hitch. Why should divorce be different?

(Okay, I know getting married is very different than getting divorced. The point is that, if you want either of those events to go well, you have to plan them, and work at them.)

The more prepared you are for your divorce, the more time and money you are likely to save in the divorce process. If you’ve put together all the right paperwork before your divorce, you won’t have to scramble to try to collect it during your divorce.  You also won’t have to pay your attorney or a financial adviser to sift through piles of paperwork in order to prepare your divorce documents.

Being prepared for divorce doesn’t just mean gathering documents, though. Divorce is legal, financial, emotional, and psychological. The more prepared you are to deal with each of these areas of divorce, the more smoothly your divorce is likely to go.

Here are 10 of the most important tips you will need to understand how to prepare for your divorce as effectively as possible.Infographic showing 10 tips for how to prepare for divorce

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. It really is that simple.

Of course, controlling your emotions doesn’t mean that you have to transform yourself into a robot, or a Vulcan like Mr. Spock. 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 get yourself a therapist or a divorce coach, or join a support group, as soon as possible. If you do you will least have a mechanism in place to help you deal with your emotions.

  1. 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!) That includes gathering 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. The problem is that, when you’re going through a divorce, you’re distracted. You can’t focus. Everything takes longer. So, the more organized you can be going into your divorce, the more grief you will save yourself during your divorce.

Smart young girl with glasses and a graduation cap: educate yourself

  1. 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 the process, the easier your divorce process is likely to go. But, getting the education you need can be challenging.

Divorce affects almost every area of your life. That means that to get through your divorce well,  you need to know a little bit about a lot of different things.  You need to learn about the divorce process, dividing property, child support, spousal support, personal finance, real estate, parenting, child psychology, conflict resolution and more. While you don’t need to become an expert in everything just to make it through your divorce, knowing the basics in each area will help you in a big way.

  1. Understand Your Finances.

If you don’t want to end up as a homeless person 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, all I can say is: Get over it! (Sorry!)

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 understand the basics of personal finance.

Red Arrows saying "No Plan" falling into a crevass while green arrow points saying Plan Ahead points upward. You have to plan for divorce.

  1. 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 you’re going to end up falling flat on your face. You could also end up flat broke.

Before you get divorced you have to make sure that you will have the ability to bring in enough money to live and pay all of your bills once your divorce is over. You can’t do that until you know how much money you will be paying/receiving in support. Once you do, if you can see that your budget isn’t likely to balance, you need to start coming up with ways that you can either increase your income or decrease your expenses. The sooner you do that, the better.

  1. Discover Your Options.

In today’s world, you can get a divorce using mediation, litigation, arbitration, Collaborative Divorce. The divorce process that you use to get divorced can directly affect the outcome you get in your divorce. It can also affect your future relationships, your finances, and your kids. It can affect the amount of money and time you spend on your divorce. The problem is, most people don’t start to explore their divorce process options until after they see an attorney and file for divorce. By then, it can be too late.

The best time to start a Collaborative Divorce or to mediate your divorce is in the beginning. Once you spend time and money fighting in court, you set in motion a pattern of fighting that is difficult to break. That’s why it’s vitally important to research and understand all of your divorce process options before you start your divorce.

      7. Put Your Team Together.

No one should go through a divorce alone. Divorce is so challenging, complicated, and overwhelming that trying to go through it 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.

Divorce is legal, financial and emotional. In a perfect world, that means that your divorce team will have a divorce lawyer, a financial adviser, and a therapist.  Eventually, you may need others (like a divorce coach, a realtor, a business evaluator, a child psychologist etc.) on your team as well. You will also need a personal support team of family and friends.  Putting the right 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.

  1. Set Realistic Goals From the Start.

Most people muddle through their divorce without ever asking themselves one critical question: What do I want? What are the one or two most important things I want from my divorce, no matter what?  If you don’t ask yourself that question, and invest time finding the right answer, you have very little chance of ending up where you want to be once your divorce is over.

The sooner you can set goals for your divorce, the more likely you are to achieve them. But, before you commit to pursuing a goal, you also have to make sure that it’s realistic.  Many people set divorce goals that are legally or financially impossible to achieve.  Setting that kind of impossible goal is like setting no goal at all. So, while preparing for your divorce, you need to not only identify your goals, but make sure they are realistic as well.

Sad boy holding a stuffed toy and looking out the window.

 

  1. Work on How to Minimize the Damage to Your Kids.

Preparing for your divorce also means learning how you can help your kids through your divorce so that they suffer as little damage as possible. You need to think about how you can best break the news of your divorce to your kids. You also need to think about what you can do to support your kids’ emotionally during this time.

Divorce also affects kids financially.  Older kids especially get worried about whether they will have to move, or whether they will have to give up their activities.  If your kids’ lifestyle is going to have to change after your divorce, you need to be honest with them. While you don’t need to share your entire financial situation with your kids, you do need to let them know how their lives and activities will or won’t change during and after your divorce.

  1. Make Peace With Your Divorce.

Getting a divorce may not be anything you ever thought you would be doing. It may go against everything you told yourself you believed in. Yet, divorce happens. Just because it happened to you doesn’t make you bad, wrong, evil or a failure. The only thing your divorce means is that your marriage didn’t work. Period.

Yet, because of all the psychological baggage that goes with divorce, going through a divorce churns up a whole barrage of negative emotions. If you’re not prepared to deal with those emotions effectively, they will make your divorce more difficult. They can also make getting over your divorce infinitely more painful.  If you want to make peace with your divorce, you need to process your emotions.  You need time to be alone so you can cry, scream, beat a pillow, or do whatever you need to work through your emotions in a way that doesn’t hijack your divorce or stress out your kids.

Upset African American woman contemplating divorceChanging the Conversation in Your Head

While the thought of preparing for divorce may make you feel sick to your stomach, doing it is really one of the smartest things you can do. Being prepared will help make you stronger and your divorce smoother. Being prepared will also give you more confidence and control.

Does that mean that, as long as you’re prepared, your divorce will be a walk in the park?

Not by a long shot!

But, preparing for divorce can help you make better choices during your divorce. It can help reduce the stress on you and your kids. (Indirectly, that also reduces the stress on your spouse, although s/he may not appreciate that fact while your divorce is raging on.) Being prepared will also put in you in a much better position to start a new life after your divorce.

In the end, while preparing for divorce can seem cold-hearted, it can actually save you and your family from an enormous amount of unnecessary pain. That doesn’t mean that getting ready to divorce will ever make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It won’t. But, it’s still one of the smartest things you can do.

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  • This is a really helpful article. In retrospect, I think I’ve been contemplating the potential of myself getting divorced. Roughly 4 years ago I returned back to college to successfully earn my degree and was able to secure a very comfortable salary in a great position/company. My main concern/question is how to proceed on a “side” business that my spouse created quite a few years back and houses within our shared home. There’s been many investments made into equipment and materials by the spouse from household income that I want to ensure I receive compensation for all the assets the spouse has purchased. This business has consumed one entire floor of the family dwelling and my question is do I need to categorize each asset? There are no formal “books” for this business as I stayed out of taking on that responsibility and the spouse is not the most honest person and doesn’t want a “paper” trail of the business’ finances. Other than taxes each year is the only way to obtain those figures which I know doesn’t include everything. So, some advice would be appreciated.

    • Oh my! First, let me congratulate you on getting your degree and a good job! Kudos to you!

      As for the rest, I wish I had good news for you, but the truth is, you’re in a bit of a rough spot.

      You can value your spouse’s business in divorce but that usually costs several thousand dollars (at least!). Plus, if the books of the business aren’t accurate …. well, you know what they say. Garbage in, garbage out. The more accurate and complete the business records, the more likely you will be to get a reasonably fair valuation of the business. But, the truth is, there is rarely anything fair about divorce.

      Here’s the hard truth you probably don’t want to hear. No matter what you do it’s unlikely you will ever get compensated for all of your investment in the business.(Sorry!) With good records you might be able to recoup a little more. But, not all of the money you put into a business actually raises the value of the business. Plus, if your spouse is less than honest, you can bet that your spouse will be doing as much as possible to decrease the value of the business while you’re going through a divorce.

      In the end you will have a choice. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more!) in legal and forensic accounting fees to try to get the business valued at what it’s truly worth. Or, you can cut your losses and settle on an amount that you know is not accurate, but that at least keeps you from getting entrenched in a long, drawn-out and expensive court battle.

      In the meantime, preparation is key. You might want to consult with both a lawyer in your area and a CPA who specializes in business valuations. They can tell you more about how this particular business might be valued and what kind of information you should start to collect to determine its value should you divorce. They might even be able to give you an idea of what it will cost to investigate the business value should your spouse contest its value.

      Sorry I can’t be the bearer of better news.

      Good luck.

      Karen

  • Karen,
    Have been reading your blog. I have been with my husband 10 years. He wants a separation. Long story I will try and shorten. My mother has Dementia but is still just about here. She moved home to be close to me. She has carers but I spend a lot of the day with her because this a very small town and she was very lonely. Therefore I have not worked since we moved here because I was worried about her I had told Mum I must get back to work to to prepare her. We are alcoholics my husband has been sober 10 years. Whereas my sobriety has been harder for me. I have been sober for good lengths of time over the years but unfortunately I have been very anxious about my Mum, he is not really supportive of her and I almost had to beg to get her invited for Christmas. I drank on emotions it had me shouting in the street at him. And I have been messy in the house. I cannot speak to him as he moved out,I think I was abrupt with his father on the phone. What an utter calamity I have caused and all this heartbreak because of my stupidity. He wants a separation I think his family will push him into Divorce and I am afraid of being in court and people saying horrible things about me, and I still Love him & Im pretty sure he still loves me though he is very mad with me. I hope it will be a short separation and that I can stay in the house, what are your thoughts. I have been stupid. My Mum is upset and rings me constantly for reassurances that I am finding it hard to dig deep enough to do.

    • Oh my! It sounds like your recent drinking is at the root of many of your problems.

      Before you do anything else, I would strongly suggest that you get into recovery as soon as possible. I don’t know where you’re at or what kind of programs are available to you, but I know that Alcoholics Anonymous is a world wide organization. Try going to some AA meetings. If you need to be in a more focused program, find one and get yourself into it. Your # 1 priority has to be to get clean and sober. Once you do that, you can work on your marriage. As a matter of fact, once you do that, your marital problems may take care of themselves.

      But, until you stop drinking completely, your marriage is not likely to do well.

      Good luck,

      Karen

      PS As far as having people say horrible things about you in court, that only happens if your case actually goes through hearings in court. Most cases don’t. Most cases settle. But, even if yours doesn’t, worrying about what people will say in court is so far down the road, it’s not worth focusing on at the moment. Right now, getting clean and sober is the only thing you probably want to focus on.

  • I am 7 weeks postpartum with my second. I have been recovering from c-section and my husband doesn’t care. My husband has not touched me unless it is for sex, he asks me to keep my clothes on (I assume during and after pregnancy, I am fat and disfigured). The first time he touched me after having the baby was to have me give him oral sex, I thought he was pulling me in for a hug (finally). I feel heartbroken and hurt. He says he loves me but I am so angry. I have spent my whole maternity leave in tears. I don’t sing to my baby, I just hold him and cry all day.

    I am so unhappy. I never thought this would happen to me. Please advise. Our children are young, but I am too sad to me a good mother. I feel terrible. I want to leave my husband but his whole family are lawyers. I am scared that he will take my children away and I will live in a homeless shelter if I get divorced.

    • I can hear how sad and upset you are. But, before you do anything rash, you’ve got to find out whether you can save your marriage. While you can get a divorce if you like, with two small children to raise (and a bunch of lawyers in his family!), that’s not something you want to rush into.

      If you haven’t tried marriage counseling, that’s the place to start! It sounds like there is a definite lack of communication between you and your husband. A good marriage counselor can help you find ways to communicate with each other effectively.

      You also might want to look into individual counseling. It is probably covered by insurance. Why would you get a therapist? … because you are already sad and probably sleep-deprived and a little overwhelmed already. You need support! You need someone who you can talk to who can think clearly and guide you to figure out what you want to do.

      Finally, do your best to take care of yourself. Try to get enough sleep. Take naps if you can. A sleep-deprived brain can’t think clearly, and that’s something you absolutely need to do right now if you want to move forward in the best way possible, whether that’s by staying in your marriage or getting a divorce.

      I know this probably sounds simple. But it’s a lot! And remember, whether you divorce or not, your kids need a mom! You will be a much better, happier and healthier mother if you take care of yourself FIRST, then figure out what you need to do moving forward. (Remember, the flight attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on first! Until you get yourself into a place where you’re okay, your kids won’t be okay either! If you do get a divorce, having a history of being the best mom you can be will help you if you end up in a custody battle.)

      Hope this helps!

      Karen

  • Help! Please !

    13 years divorced with a pathological narcissistic bully, complying with order after order after order, the ex is STILL on the hunt to look for something else. I have other children with my current spouse and my ex has made our lives hell. Financially took EVERYTHING and still is. 75 percent of my income and 60/40 extracurricular/medical bill. (I’m the 60 percent) if not paid within 10 days of given receipt, we’re back in court due to (ex) filing a motion to enforce , a motion of contempt, a motion to subpoena jail time for max days of 45. Continues to use contempt as a way to manipulate her way of getting ALL mine and current spouses financial statements out of nosiness, and to fight to prove contempt so that I will be court ordered to pay ex attorney fees on top of mine after hiring yet another lawyer. I am at a loss. My current children have suffered due to our financial burden owing (ex) . Unreasonable alimony/cs payments have been reasoning of sometimes not being able to pay on orderly time. Instead of (ex) working with me for when I have the finances, it’s an opportunity for (ex) to use that to discredit me. Currently waiting to be served another discovery as (ex) is taking one word from current order, and fighting the interpretation from that word, as “open ended” which means “pending” which means fighting to continue to extend this longer instead of agreeing I’ve complied 100 percent and have purged myself from contempt. And every documentation that proved I complied. Harassment, threats, interference, stalking, alienation as well. At complete loss. I am in the -3 digits of debt. Nothing left.

    • I am so sorry to hear your story! Unfortunately, when you’re divorcing a narcissist (or you’re already divorced from a narcissist) life rarely goes as planned. Narcissists can use the court system as a weapon against you. Talking to them rationally and trying to reach reasonable agreements, rarely works. So a lot of what I talk about in this article on preparing for a divorce isn’t going to work for you! (Sorry!)

      I understand that you’re deeply in debt. But I would strongly recommend consulting with a good divorce lawyer in your area to see what your options are. Unfortunately, much of what you’re asking are legal questions. I can’t answer legal questions online or outside the state of Illinois. But you definitely need legal advice. Even if you just pay a lawyer for an hour or two of his/her time, it will be money well spent.

      Best,

      Karen

  • Hello!
    I am preparing for the possibility that my husband and I will need to get divorced. We have an unusual home situation… two years ago we bought a piece of land with no infrastructure at all and have been building a homestead by hand. We’ve built a yurt, a barn, and several small outbuildings. However, from the very beginning, I loved this piece of land and I’ve done about 80% of the building labor, while he has been unhappy here and has not invested much energy into developing the property. So now the property value is higher than when we moved in… but I feel that it would be fair for more of that value to be mine since I did most of the work. I want to stay on the land and buy him out, and he may (though he actually wants to leave) try to fight me for the land out of anger and hurt. Does the sweat equity I put into building these improvements get taken into account legally? Is there any way to prove I did most of the physical labor?

  • You’ve got some great divorce preparation tips. I love how you said that it’s good to have a team because no one should go through this alone. We’re hoping to help my sister go through her divorce, so I’ll tell her to hire a lawyer to help her.

  • My sister and her husband are planning on divorcing, so I wondered if I could get some advice on making the process easier. I didn’t know you need a basic knowledge of dividing property and child psychology when you divorce. I’ll have to show my sister this article and when we find a divorce attorney we like, we can ask more questions about making the process easier, thanks to this post!

  • Thanks for mentioning the importance of getting documents organized before a divorce to reduce any unwanted stress. My sister is getting divorced after being married for 5 years and it has put a toll on her mental health. She plans on hiring a lawyer to help make the process much smoother.

  • Thank you so much for pointing out that no one goes into a marriage planning for a divorce, you will have really hard emotions, but you will need to process them well if you want to gain peace with the divorce. For the last few months, my brother has been telling me how unhappy he is in his marriage and how unappreciated he feels. He is thinking that it is time for a divorce. I will have to tell him about your advice and help him look for lawyers to help the process.

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