If you’re like most people who are considering a marital split, you need to know how to prepare for divorce – from finances to breaking the news to your kids. And there’s no question about it: preparing for divorce takes time and resources.
Here’s what you need to know.
How to Prepare for Divorce
Other than the emotional side of divorce, which also requires preparation, you have to think about things like money, your kids and so much more – all while keeping up with your daily obligations. Here are seven steps you need to take to prepare for divorce:
- Deal with your emotions
- Gather documentation
- Consider your job prospects
- Make a financial plan
- Set goals
- Talk to a lawyer about your options
- Help your children
1. Deal With Your Emotions
Divorce is a highly emotional process, even if you’ve known it was coming for a long time. Unfortunately, divorce is also a process that requires you to make tough decisions – and big emotions don’t always help you make good choices. For many people, that means talking to a therapist or counselor to help sort things out.
Related: How to Set Boundaries With Your Ex
2. Gather Documentation
When you file for divorce, you’ll need to have several documents that back up your financial claims – like bank statements, income tax returns, pay stubs and credit card statements. You’ll also need birth certificates, your kids’ Social Security numbers and other documents. If you pull all this information together before you talk to an attorney, you’ll be able to find it quickly when he or she needs it.
3. Consider Your Job Prospects
If you haven’t worked in a while, it may be time to start looking for a job. You may also decide it’s time to invest in your education so you can get an even better job once you’re on your own. Talk to your lawyer about what you should do if you’ve been the supported spouse; you might be entitled to spousal support that helps you get on your feet.
4. Make a Financial Plan
You can’t count on spousal support or child support until you have a signed court order in your hand. You need to develop a financial plan – including a budget – that you can work with during and after your divorce. (Again, if you’re not working, talk to your attorney about what you can do.)
It’s also imperative that you understand your family’s finances. You need to know what assets you and your spouse share, how much you owe, and how much money comes in each month.
5. Set Goals
Be realistic when you’re planning your divorce. You need to know what you want out of your divorce – whether it’s a certain amount of time with your children or it has to do with the assets you’ve accumulated during your marriage – and you need to be clear about your goals with your attorney. You can’t expect the judge to order your spouse to award you millions in spousal support payments each month, give you the house and leave your spouse destitute; that’s not realistic, and you’ll only be disappointed (and dissatisfied with a reasonable outcome).
6. Talk to a Lawyer About Your Options
When you’re ready, it’s time to talk to an attorney. Your attorney can answer all your questions and help you through the process, explaining each step.
7. Help Your Children
After you break the news to your kids – which experts suggest doing together, as a couple – it’s your job to help them cope. There are several ways you can do that (like through divorce books for kids, spending extra time together and more), but through it all, the most important thing to do is reassure your kids that you love them and that you’ll always be their parent.
What Can You Not Do During a Divorce?
There’s a pretty significant list of things you shouldn’t do during divorce, but here are five things you really need to steer clear of:
- Don’t get into a relationship with someone else.
- Don’t catch a “winner-takes-all” attitude.
- Don’t involve your children.
- Don’t rule out talking to a therapist.
- Don’t hide or dispose of assets.
Here’s a quick look at each.
#1. Don’t get into another relationship.
There are myriad reasons you shouldn’t get into another relationship before the ink is dry on your divorce decree (and definitely not before it’s even been signed). One of the most important is your own well-being; you need time to readjust to your new normal. Besides that, if your soon-to-be ex finds out that you’re in a new relationship, your chances of negotiating your own settlement can drop drastically.
#2. Don’t catch a “winner-takes-all” attitude.
Divorce isn’t a contest. You’re both just trying to make it out with a reasonable outcome, so you both have to act that way. If you try to use the legal system to “win” and to make your spouse “lose,” you’re not going to get very far. Judges won’t sign off on things that aren’t fair to both parties.
Related: How to negotiate during divorce
#3. Don’t involve your children.
Studies show that involving your children in your divorce can be tremendously harmful to their well-being. Instead of using your kids as messengers or worse, using them to hurt your ex, it’s best for them if you reassure them that you’ll both always love them – and that you know it’s important they have relationships with both of you. That way, your kids can bounce back once they adjust to their new circumstances.
Related: Divorce with kids
#4. Don’t rule out talking to a therapist.
Everybody needs support, especially during a tough time like divorce. You, your children and your ex could likely all benefit from talking to a trained professional who can teach you new coping strategies. Your therapist can also give you advice, listen to you vent and help you start planning for the future.
#5. Don’t hide or dispose of assets.
During your divorce, it’s very important that you’re completely honest about your assets – and that you don’t get rid of anything. The courts don’t look to favorably on those who try to cheat the system, and hiding your assets (or disposing of them) can really backfire on you. If you’re wondering if it’s okay to hide money from your spouse, the answer is definitely no.
Related: Hiding assets during divorce
How Do You Secretly Prepare for Divorce?
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s necessary for someone to secretly prepare for divorce. Whether you’re a victim of domestic violence or you’re concerned that your spouse will do something rash (physically or otherwise), it may be in your best interest to keep quiet about your plans until you’re ready to take action.
You can secretly prepare for divorce in many of the same ways that are listed here – you’ll want to prepare yourself emotionally, gather documents, make a financial plan and talk to an attorney about your options. If your safety is an issue, let your attorney know – she’ll be able to provide you with resources you can use to stay safe (and keep your children safe) while you start the process.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About How to Prepare for Divorce?
If you’re thinking about divorce, it’s time to prepare. Call us at 209-910-9865 to schedule your consultation with a divorce lawyer – we’ll answer all your questions and start building a strategy that gets you and your kids the best possible outcome.