Divorce is an incredibly difficult experience for most people. In my 23 years in practice as a divorce attorney, I have never had a client tell me that their divorce “was a breeze.” More often, I observe the emotional upheaval and stress associated with being in a legal process no one foresaw on their wedding day. Yet, there are certain things women can do to set themselves up better for divorce. Here are five things every woman should do before she files for divorce.
#1 Know What You Owe and What You Own
Although we are in the twenty-first century, research still indicates that women defer money decisions to their spouses. In fact, one study found that 56% of women abdicated financial and investing decisions to their spouse. I find this in my own practice too and it is a disadvantage to women at the outset of a divorce. To overcome this, women should familiarize themselves with what they owe (ie. debts) and own (ie. assets). They should review statements for mortgages and loans as well as retirement, bank, and investment accounts. Women should try to ask their spouse questions about account balances or values. They should conduct independent research such as contacting a real estate professional for an opinion of value on their home and searching websites for comparable values on vehicles, trailers, boats, and motorcycles.
#2 Understand What Money Comes In, and Goes Out
Women do not always have an accurate sense of what money is flowing in and out of their marital community each month. They may know generally what a mortgage or car payment is or how much their spouse earns. They may not regularly, if at all, look at their bank statements to understand their monthly cashflow. However, they need to. One household is divided into two in a divorce. Women should have a handle on monthly expenses and income so they can plan how they will manage their household budget after separation and, if applicable to their circumstances, what financial support they may need from their spouse to do so.
#3 Build Your Support System Now
Divorce is an emotionally difficult – even traumatic – experience. While women know this, they often underestimate how significant the impact will be. Having the right kind of support in place before the divorce process begins is crucial. This should include a mental health therapist, divorce coach or divorce support group. Friends and family can be a part of the support system but do not always provide objectivity. Women need objective insight during such an emotionally charged time. Even if they do not engage in weekly sessions, it is beneficial for women to have a therapist, coach, or group they feel comfortable with lined up ahead of time. Then, there will be no delay receiving support when divorce stress and emotional upheaval strikes.
#4 Consult With An Attorney
Women should meet with an attorney at least once to explain their circumstances and get specific legal advice related to those circumstances. They should get an attorney consultation regardless if they think their divorce is simple or their spouse tells them that attorneys do not need to be involved. Knowledge is power. Women need to understand what the legal divorce process entails. They should be aware of the process options like mediation or Collaborative Divorce. Moreover, they should know what their rights are before signing off on a settlement or final divorce judgment. Receiving advice early on from an attorney who specializes in divorce or family law in the area where they live early is an important way to prepare.
#5 Develop A Plan or Several Plans
Divorce causes change. Depending on the circumstances, the changes could involve moving homes, selling the family home, getting a job, or figuring out how to meet monthly expenses in two different households. Women need to be prepared with plans for the short-term (ie. where they will live and how to manage household expenses during the divorce process). Yet, they also need to plan for their future. The decisions made during a divorce can have lifetime impact. Women must consider their financial future. They need to evaluate where they want or need to be in the years following divorce. Doing this will only assist them in negotiating a fair settlement or asking a judge to award them a certain split of assets or support.
Do not wait
Women should not wait to do these five things if they are contemplating divorce. Increasing knowledge of financial circumstances, planning and having the right support will work to their advantage before, during and after divorce.
To learn more on how to prepare for divorce, check out Chapter 4 of my book, Divorce Wisdom, right now at Amazon – https://amzn.to/3pzVWr9