Okay, that’s it, you’ve made up your mind! You want a divorce. Now what?
It’s obviously one of the hardest decisions you have ever made. But if you think the hard part is over, you’ve got another thing coming. Divorce is a life change. Divorce is disruptive. Divorce is painful.
Divorce is hard work. There is nothing you can do about that. But there are a few, generally easy things you can do to make the process just a little bit smoother or maybe quicker.
We like to call them the Five Steps to a Simpler Separation. And while the list is not all inclusive and cannot address every situation or snarl, it is a good basic roadmap for a more a less destructive divorce.
• Gather Paper — Make sure you have all your joint financial information and documents. We are not just talking about recent bank statements and pay stubs, but also new and old loan agreements, investment accounts, real estate deeds or mortgage liens, retirement accounts, insurance policies and tax returns.
• Start Fresh — Open a bank account in your own name. Make sure you keep precise records. Even in your own, new bank account, your funds may be considered marital assets until the divorce is final.
• Close Shop — You may want to consider closing the joint bank account and splitting the balance if there are not a lot of pending transactions. It is also wise to close or freeze any joint lines of credit or credit cards and open new lines of credit independently. Again, make sure to properly maintain records.
• Get Help — Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals who can provide you with the help or resources you need. While you might eventually need a family-law attorney, first explore the different options for divorce aside from litigation. Self-filing, mediation and collaborative are all viable options, depending on your situation. Confused or worried about money matters? Get a divorce financial planner. Having trouble getting over the initial emotional upheaval and crippling grief? Consider a therapist.
• Educate yourself — Divorce is not only difficult emotionally, it can be complex and that pain can be exacerbated if you do not know what is going on with your own life. Learn the language or terms used in divorce and how the system works. Many states require a two-hour course for parents of small children to educate them on making the process less stressful for them. Look for information online. Talk to others who have gone through the process to learn from their mistakes – and their successes. Support groups can be helpful. Having knowledge of what to expect will give you comfort and empower you with the confidence to make better decisions at a very confusing and critical time in your life.
Divorce is difficult enough as it is. But with these basic first steps, you can have more control of the process and the outcome, and that will positively impact how you come out of it and how you feel afterward.
Carlos Blanco founded The Big Kaboom www.thebigkaboom.com, a company that combines people, technology and social elements to support clients through their divorce process. He may be contacted by calling 305-908-1171 or sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.