Divorces cost money, so budget accordingly. How you choose to proceed will have a direct impact on how much your divorce will cost. Generally, the more cooperative you are with your spouse, the cheaper the experience will be. You really need to consider whether spending a couple thousand dollars versus tens of thousands of dollars is going to benefit you in the long run. Pull your credit report. The first step in splitting up your debts is identifying them.
They only care about you meeting your financial obligations. So, if your name is attached to a debt, whether you know it or not, you are legally responsible to pay it. Start closing joint accounts. Even in an amicable divorce, a spouse may abdicate their responsibility to pay a debt they have been assigned. You need to unwind your financial relationship with the other person as soon as it is feasible to protect yourself.
The flip side to this is to open separate bank accounts. Denying access by your spouse to your funds is critical. Keep things clean and start taking a big step toward financial independence. Start building your credit. Divorce can do a number on your credit score.
Give serious thought to your future housing situation. Do you want to keep the house? Can you afford to keep the house? Think through your housing options and begin to do your due diligence. How much is your house worth? How much would it cost to rent? How much would it cost to buy a new house? This is one of the biggest decisions that will frame your post-divorce life, so spend a lot of time on it from a rational, financial and an emotional standpoint.
Give serious thought to your future job options. If you have been a primary caregiver or stay at home spouse, you may need some serious training or schooling to make you more attractive in the job market. Where you work may also be impacted, especially if you have child custody and visitation issues to resolve. Will you receive child support and spousal support? If so, for how long? Each state uses formulas in determining child support and you should be able to figure that amount with some legal help.
Spousal support involves a number of factors and judges have much more leeway in determining the amount and duration. Other than a house, retirement plans often represent the largest asset to be divided in a marriage, especially one that has lasted for any length of time. It is a multi-step process that requires court approval, input from the plan administrator and making sure that the account and what you may be entitled to are valued the right way. Ultimately, plans are divided using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order , and you will need to have an attorney help you execute one to ensure you get what you should receive.
Track your spending and build a budget. Start by reviewing your bank statements and credit card bills for any accounts that you spend money. Use this to develop an understanding of your historical spending. From there, create an interim budget during the divorce process and post-divorce budget. Set up Armageddon fund. Find inconspicuous ways to save money cash from ATM, cash from grocery stores, etc. Waiving your filing fees. Brace yourself for the shitstorm ahead.
You are going to bad days, worse days and flat out awful days but you will get through things. Over time, things will get better. Keep your friends and family out of the middle. This is one of the awkward parts of divorce. People will want to help. The worst thing you can do is drag them in and have them become punching bags or fight your battles for you. By blasting your spouse to your friends and family, you may be inadvertently asking them to take sides, and you might not like the outcome.
Limit talk about the blame game. Be careful of what you post on social media. Make sure your friends and family are aware of this too. Kids have none. Their world is going to be rocked exponentially compared to yours. Children hear and remember everything so keep them out of it. Avoid the temptation to use your child as a confidante, even in a calm, cool and collected way. Remember, your ex is their parent too.
Turn to friends, family, or a therapist for emotional support. Divorce is the second most stressful life event just behind the death of a spouse or child. Your brain may race overtime trying to get a handle on everything that needs to happen, especially at the outset. Stay civil. From an emotional standpoint, staying civil will prolong your life.
From a financial standpoint, staying civil will prolong your bank account. Take emotions out of the equation as much as possible and treat divorce as a business transaction instead of a battle you need to win. Trust your team.
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This may be your first time through divorce we hope! Listen to them. They also have the benefit of being less emotional than you, so their judgment will be less colored than yours. At the very least, check out the laws in your state because adultery can be used against you in some instances. Revisit your bucket list. A divorce can mean a new level of freedom in your life. Join new clubs and social organizations. Find new and creative ways to grow and fill your time. If you need help, get help. Divorce is ugly business.
It can wipe you out mentally and emotionally. Some people can soldier through, but there is no shame in seeking help if you need it. A therapist or a divorce coach can help you work through depression, negativity, uncertainties about the future and spot things that may be delaying your healing. These things can also manifest themselves physically as well. Jason Crowley is a divorce financial strategist, personal finance expert, and entrepreneur.
A leading authority in divorce finance, Jason has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other media outlets. You can email him at jason survivedivorce. Please leave this field empty. Why do you want to keep the house? There are several options — litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, and DIY divorce.
These are a couple scenarios that could impact your divorce from a timing perspective. Learn the Legalities In some states, substance abuse can be a factor when dividing assets as well. Face Your Finances If you want to keep the house, what are you willing to give up in return? Stash that cash. Mastering the Mental Side Steer clear of social media. What you say can and will be used against you. Do not panic. Easy to say, but at times, difficult to do.
Pace yourself. Divorce is a marathon, not a yard dash. Legal and financial issues aside, it takes time to emotionally process the end of a marriage. Your perspectives will shift over time. You will become more resilient as you move forward.
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Looking for more great divorce tips? Try Mediation or Collaborative Divorce. Try to talk things out as calmly as possible with your spouse. You've at least obtained his or her attention in the matter. Now try to set things right. If you and your spouse decide to try mediation or counseling, divorce attorney Susan Kunstler has a cautionary note.
Not only can you waste a lot of time and make the relationship worse, but you can find that you have spent a large amount of money in the process. People are attracted to do-it-yourself also known as "Pro Se," which is a Latin phrase meaning "for yourself" divorces because they are supposed to save both time and money. Unfortunately, most divorces are relatively complicated—involving complex property transfers and their tax implications; plus the issues of support, custody, and access if children or an unemployed spouse are involved.
You might be able to process your own divorce if:. If you want to try the pro se route, there are some resources available to help you. The very first thing you should do is contact the local court in which you will be filing for divorce and obtain a copy of the court's "check list" of documents and information the particular court requires. Check with your local community college, adult education center, or community center to see if they offer classes on divorce.
There are some low-cost legal clinics and some private-practice attorneys or paralegals who will fill out your forms for a fee and review your separation agreement to make sure the paperwork is complete before it's filed with the court. A paralegal service generally only fills out the forms for you—which may be all you need if you know all of the legal issues of your case because you have discussed your case in detail with a divorce lawyer before hiring the paralegal to fill out the paperwork.
Paralegals are not trained to give legal advice, and you may overlook serious issues if you rely on a paralegal to let you know your rights and obligations.
If you create your Separation Agreement yourselves, you and your spouse should each retain an independent attorney to check all papers before signing—even if the divorce is "friendly" and you think your agreement is very straightforward. Also remember that it can be extremely helpful to have occasional consultations with an attorney as needed as you negotiate with your spouse.
Another option for those who'd like to handle some of the divorce-related work themselves is to "unbundle" their legal services. You'll need to provide your lawyer with the following documentation in order to proceed with a Separation Agreement. Start gathering everything together as soon as possible so that you can find out what might be missing and submit any requests for duplicates.
Here's a list of some of the information you should have ready: Personal Data. The Separation Agreement Clearly, the easiest way to prove marriage breakdown is by meeting the "living separate and apart" rules. While living apart, you'll probably want to be protected by a Separation Agreement, which spells out in detail matters such as financial relief, child custody and support, visitation rights, and division of property.
There's often a lot of time and work involved in finalizing a Separation Agreement, so if a suit for divorce has been started, the court has the power to order one spouse to pay support to the other while the case is ongoing. It may also determine temporary custody and enjoin the spouses from doing any of several things—like removing the children from the state or substantially reducing the marital estate.
If you're amicably separated, it may be possible to create a simple written agreement as to support payments while the divorce is proceeding. It needs to be written down and signed by both parties so that the amounts paid as alimony can be tax deductible by the payer. My ex-wife and I handled things this way just fine and saved the trouble and possible animosity involved in court-ordered interim support. Having an existing Separation Agreement in force greatly simplifies the subsequent filing for a divorce. Lacking a Separation Agreement, the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage will have to address all of the same sorts of issues anyway.
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So having the Separation Agreement drawn up early is a wise investment. The Summons The divorce action is initiated by serving a Summons upon the other party the defendant , briefly stating the grounds upon which the divorce is sought, and a brief outline of what you as the plaintiff are seeking the divorce itself, as well as items such as division of properties, custody of the children, interim support, and legal fees. You then have up to days to serve the papers on the other party.
The defendant is required to respond with a Notice of Appearance within 35 days and an Appearance within 30 days. The Counterclaim After or, occasionally, at the same time as the Summons, the Verified Complaint is served. This describes the basis for the divorce and specific relief being sought in more detail. Once served upon the defendant, he or she has 20 days to respond. In the response, the defendant may admit or deny parts of your Complaint, and may also issue a Counterclaim against you.
If the defendant agrees to go forward with the divorce—while not necessarily agreeing with it—he or she would sign a Defendant's Affidavit.
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If there is no Separation Agreement, or the divorce is being contested, each of the lawyers begins the Discovery Process, in which they gather as much information as possible about the facts of the case. This information can delve into issues such as custody, fault, and grounds for divorce. But in most cases, the emphasis will be on financial matters. You'll likely be asked to supply various financial documentation, and to detail in writing within a Case Information Statement all pertinent facts concerning your finances and properties. And I do mean detail!
This is where I got bogged down. You're expected to itemize and put a reasonable and provable dollar value on each and every significant item that a you brought into the marriage, and b that you have in your possession at the time of signing the Statement. So, off you go for the next two months or so trying to track down bills for stuff you purchased before your marriage, getting your bank to print out reams of paper for your bank account and IRA balances the day before your marriage which is quite involved and expensive if that date was more than 10 years ago, and if, like me, you switched banks several times due to moves between cities, and like me some of those cities were foreign , gathering slips of paper to prove the outstanding balance of your mortgage and your company stocks before you married, the value of the car and motorcycle and canoe and what-have-you on the two dates, and ad infinitum.
In the meanwhile, your lawyer has enlisted the services of an actuary to determine the value of your company pension plan at both dates. These calculations can be quite complex and subject to plenty of actuarial best-guessing. You're finally through with it—signed and delivered to your spouse's lawyer. Now you find out that it's the duty of the other lawyer to go over your figures carefully and demand proof of anything in question.
So back you go to the books and the appraisers and the banks for further proof of anything contested. Appraisals or valuations may also be requested for such things as the value of a business. With the possible exception of folks who are meticulous record-keepers, gathering the necessary evidence to support your Net Worth document can be a nightmare. All I can advise here is "keep at it," since the problem won't get solved by itself.
It's easy to procrastinate, but it's unlikely that you'll be able to proceed meaningfully until the financial information is deemed complete, accurate, and acceptable by "the other side. And here's where the trust and goodwill you've been building during your separation—by treating your ex with courtesy, scrupulous honesty, and kindness—starts to pay off. In our case, my ex-wife recognized that the delays and expense in obtaining some of the documentation simply wasn't worth the couple of hundred bucks she might have gained in the ultimate property division.
She knows—because I demonstrated it to her over and over again—that I have no desire to cheat her or our children out of anything. We agreed that the dollars are far better spent on our children than on appraiser and bank fees. Division of Property The details of property division can vary substantially from state to state, but here is a brief outline of what generally happens during this phase of your divorce:.
One of the prime reasons for the full financial disclosure by each spouse is to arrive at this equitable distribution of marital property.