6 Ways to Prepare for a Divorce
The common theme heard when someone is asked about the divorce process is that they found it to be hard, complicated and expensive. While all of these things can be true if not handled properly, we prepared this little checklist to get you thinking about how you can prepare to ensure that the process is even a fraction easier on you.
1. Think about your team Squad goals is not just for the millennial and teens in our lives. When contemplating or beginning the divorce process, it is really imperative that you think about the person (or better yet persons) who will stand by your side throughout this process. Whether you choose to initiate the process or are handed a divorce complaint, more often than not this period is emotional and full of various stressors. Leaning on the people in our lives that support us, which may include family, friends or even someone who has recently lived through a divorce, is a great way to keep you focused on your “why” or help you identify the potential in what your new life could look like.
2. Prepare your records Sometimes it seems like Benjamin Franklin needs to be credited as the original preparedness expert. He has been credited as saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Listen. I know how cliché it sounds. But there is no denying that in the world of family court, Ben was on to something.
At some point in the divorce process here in New Jersey, you will be required to identify all of your assets and debts, whether they are from before you were married, during your marriage and sometimes even after a divorce complaint has been filed. Get organized early on by making a list or spreadsheet of all of your assets and debts. For our purposes, when I speak about debts, I'm referring to essentially an amount of money owed to another party. Some examples may be credit card balances, mortgages, home equity loans, personal loans, car notes, and student loans.
Conversely, when we discuss assets, we are referring to anything that can be converted for a value. Some examples may be bank accounts, real estate, cars, coin collections, jewelry, watches, and even sometimes your Aunt Millie’s china. (Please note that these are not exhaustive lists by any means.)
Both assets and debts can be in both spouses’ names (joint) or in either individual’s sole name. In some cases, one spouse may even have debts and assets associated with their own businesses or employment.
It is important for you to discuss the assets and debts that you have listed with an experienced family law attorney who can help you ensure that the correct debts and assets are included in the “marital pot” so that you are not being held responsible for too much debt while not receiving your equitable share of the assets.
3. Do not make decisions out of emotion More often than not, individuals going through a divorce are asked to make some of the biggest and life changing decisions. Specifically, each party often must consider whether or not they want to stay in the former marital house, where they may want to relocate, what custody and parenting time might look like if you have children, and who will retain certain personal property items (like cars and furniture).
Lean on your support system when weighing your options. A common scenario that arises is when one party is convinced that they should keep the house despite the house having little to no value or equity. While this absolutely may be the right decision for you, it is important not to rush to make this decision and to really ensure that you are not making decisions based on emotion. There is plenty of time throughout the divorce process to work through these issues and contemplate the pros and cons of these choices. Give yourself time to consider what makes the most financial and emotional sense to you and your family.
4. Get a Consult Whether it be a family law attorney to discuss divorce, custody, or domestic violence or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to find out the tax consequences of potential divorce settlements or tax credits post-divorce, it is crucial that you armed with the correct information. While I know many people trust asking Siri, Alexa or Google to assist them in many ways, this is not a safe way to ensure that you are provided accurate professional advice for these issues in your state. Arming yourself with as much information as possible will assist you in making smart decisions that are based on what is best for your future.
5. Divorce is really hard Whether you know in your heart that the decision to get a divorce is the right choice, or not, proceeding with a divorce can be a really difficult decision. The divorce process alone can be emotionally draining. Whether it be the change in routine, change in location, sharing time with your children or just the emotional changes, there is no denying that divorce is an adjustment and is difficult for nearly everyone, even the party who sought the divorce. Be kind to yourself. Do not beat yourself up for any mistakes that you may have made or any “wrongs” for which you feel responsible. Take the time for self-care. Whether you love the gym, taking a walk, watching television, reading a book, or even just spending time with your children, do things that make you feel good.
6. Embrace the good in change While one chapter of your life may be ending, a brand-new chapter is about to begin. Strive to ensure that this new chapter is full of promise rather than full of dread.
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