Divorce or separation tends to be one of those situations that women don’t plan for because, well, we don’t want to assume the worst. We operate under the assumption that everything will be fine. It’s when things suddenly aren’t fine and we start thinking about divorce that we realize, in hindsight of course, that we could have taken some simple measures that would have saved us a lot of time, energy, and anxiety.
If you are thinking about divorce, or are unsure of the state of your relationship, understand that nowadays, it’s really recommended that you connect with someone who can go through the process with you.
But if you are not there yet — you are not ready to confide in someone like a therapist or a divorce coach — there are solo steps you can take that will make you feel better. One step (or series of steps) is to organize certain items you should have readily available (regardless of the state of your relationship).
Using the checklist below, gather documents related to finances, the household and the children now. Make note of account numbers in a small notebook and you’ll have an easier time accessing the information you need when and if you need it.
❒ Bank and credit card statements/account numbers
❒ Retirement account numbers
❒ Investment account numbers
❒ Loan account numbers
❒ Recent pay stubs, W2’s,or 1099’s
❒ Copy of deeds/mortgage/property title
❒ Employee benefit package info
❒ Wills and/or trusts
❒ Insurance policies
❒ Tax returns from the last 3-5 years
❒ Vehicle registration
❒ Airline frequent flier numbers
Other important records to have access to/copies of:
❒ Health insurance and identification cards
❒ Birth certificates
❒ Social security cards
❒ Passport/Green card
❒ Medical records
❒ School records
❒ Immunization records
❒ Baptismal/religious records
❒ Credentials (teaching certificate, licenses, etc.)
❒ Pet records
❒ Marriage certificate
❒ Divorce decree
❒ Contact info — accountants, relatives, good friends, etc.
If you are fairly certain that you want a divorce and you are wondering what additional things you should be thinking about, consider taking these steps:
❒ Estimate what your need to live for several months, and if you haven’t already, begin setting aside that money immediately
❒ Inform all parties with a financial interest, such as banks, financial professionals and creditors of the probability of the divorce
❒ Obtain a temporary order for spousal and child support if needed
❒ Take a household inventory (including pictures) of rooms and items
❒ Put items that are personal and that you want to take with you, such as diplomas and yearbooks, in a safe place (your office, a friends house)
❒ Make a copy of house keys and car keys
❒ Write a background, a picture of your married life including a description of your time and money contributions to the marriage while it’s fresh in your mind.
If abuse is part of the picture, your safety is the most important thing.
❒ How to get out of your home safely, and practice ways to get out
❒ Three places you could go if you must leave your home
❒ People who might help you if you left. Is there someone who might keep a bag for you? Someone who might lend you money or let you stay with them?
❒ If you have children, teach them how to dial 911
❒ Print out your address book and give it to friends, your boss, or a family member
❒ Put together a “Go Bag” and put it somewhere you can get to it quickly. Include, in addition to the important papers in your file, items like:
❒ Keys to car, house, and work
❒ Prescription medicine
❒ Childcare supplies
❒ Extra clothes
❒ Extra phone charger
❒ Extra prescription eyeglasses, hearing aid, or other vital personal items
❒ Pictures, jewelry, anything that means a lot to you
There’s no harm in making a few copies of important papers or putting a few items away for safekeeping. If you don’t need them, great! If you do, you’ll be very glad you took the time now. Our divorce advice for women? Why not be prepared for whatever comes your way?