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Before you file for divorce

6 Must Do’s Before Filing for Divorce

Regardless of your situation, divorce is life-altering. Even if you expect to manage a calm break-up, the financial and emotional challenges could make divorce one of the toughest things you’ll do in your life. For this reason, many people do not prepare themselves adequately before filing for divorce.

Unfortunately, most people jump into divorce impulsively—or they face divorce unexpectedly—without ever preparing. In those scenarios, the risks of a bad outcome increase because at least one of you reacts from an emotional, uninformed place. This increases the likelihood of discord, conflict, and pain because “fear” is leading the charge.

Responding from a steadier, educated place will reduce pain in the long run. And so, before you decide to file for divorce or respond to a divorce filed against you, make sure to follow the concrete suggestions below to help get your footing. You must acknowledge your fear, but you must also listen to your brain and take these steps.

  1. Begin By Writing Down Your Questions

Taking action is important, in fact critical, but before you lunge in any direction, take time to be with yourself and to write down the biggest questions you have. Put the questions in categories if possible: legal, financial, emotional/life, practical. Then consider your questions and find the right professional who can help with them. Friends can only get you so far. A professional must look at your circumstances to help you understand your choices. A professional will have experience with these issues. Why do it all alone and exhaust yourself trying to reinvent the wheel?

  1. Gather the Necessary Documents to Get Feedback

Legal and financial documents about your marital life are essential in divorce. During the process, your lawyer and financial advisor will need to see various documentation to give you concrete feedback on what your best-case and worst-case scenarios are. Organizing your paperwork early on, including such essential files as investment and retirement account statements, tax returns, and pay stubs of your partner, will help your advisors understand the financial story and help you develop your best strategy for what you will negotiate for and live on.

Read Are You Thinking About Divorce? Important Steps to Be Prepared

  1. Consult the Right Professionals

Look at your list of questions and begin consulting the appropriate expert. Therapists can help you specifically with the emotional journey you are going through and offer guidance on how to take care of yourself during this time. The relatively new type of divorce advisor the “divorce coach” is a generalist who gives you an overview and structure for what to expect. They will help with some of your questions and help you identify clear steps to take in the right direction. Divorce coaches are also trained in supporting you with your emotional challenges as you are facing this transition. Well-resourced and connected, they can provide you with referrals to other seasoned experts, like a lawyer, therapist, or financial advisor who specializes in divorce.

  1. Legal Support

Even if you are thinking about it, or your spouse is telling you, “Let’s do it DIY!” it is critical that you, as an individual woman, get feedback on your legal situation. This means consulting with a lawyer on your own.

You should look for a traditional, licensed divorce attorney for this meeting and aim to learn what your rights are. Additionally, you should also learn what you are entitled to and what might be potential issues to resolve. You must hear what your state law says about your circumstances (and not rely on what your spouse is telling you.) You’ll probably have questions about child support, spousal support, temporary living arrangements, who determines custody, who’s going to stay or move out, or how to conduct yourself during the legal process. Like a divorce coach or financial advisor (below), a lawyer is that person who speaks to you confidentially and advises you specifically. A good one specializes in family or divorce law, and is experienced, compassionate, and makes you feel heard.

See this link for questions to ask a divorce attorney and how to prepare for that meeting.

  1. Consult with a Smart Money Person

Most often this is a financial advisor, but maybe your sister is an accountant and can help you determine which financial choices would be the wisest for you long term? Getting good financial feedback is not the work of a divorce lawyer, although your lawyer will have a legal perspective. A financial advisor will help you get clear on the financial picture and save you potential pitfalls. One of the goals of the divorce procedure is to have an equitable distribution of all your debts and marital assets. For you to get a fair share during your divorce financial settlement, it’s crucial to attain guidance on assessing your finances beforehand and to do projections for the future as an independent woman. Learning what you own and what you owe as a married couple is step 1.

  1. Connect with the ‘Good Ones’ in Your Support Network

Boundaries are important when you are going through a life crisis like divorce. You must be careful in whom you’re confiding in because most people, well-intentioned or not, are simply not trained in the divorce process or its recovery. Consider your inner circle. Who can you truly count on for support? Who reminds you of your best self? Who’s going to help you now and not judge you? Nurture those people, stay connected to them, and block others. Divorce is not a good time to go it alone. Having a safe place to vent, like a divorce support group, allows you to be more pulled together when you are looking at the financial and legal angles of the divorce.

Conclusion

Divorce is a life challenge few of us ever prepare for. It’s tough and, even in the least conflicted scenarios, requires a sensible game plan for you to healthily manage yourself and your expectations. Before filing for divorce, taking time to consult with the right professionals and to create the best plan will serve you greatly in the long term.

If you read the above six suggestions, you may find yourself saying, “Wow, I can’t even pull the money together to meet with an attorney let alone consider those other professionals!” If this is the case, then you owe yourself at least a legal consultation. The truth is you cannot afford to give away things you don’t know about. Contact your city or state bar and look for their lawyer referral lines. These resources often provide for lawyers who will give you a discounted or free consultation.

A legal consultation, ladies, is a minimum you should do before filing for divorce.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Divorce Financial Settlement

What is a Divorce Financial Settlement?

A divorce financial settlement is the agreement or order directing how assets and debts are to be divided between the parties in a divorce. As such, it is part of the larger divorce settlement agreement. Most divorce financial settlements will involve dividing the entire estate equally 50/50; however, there are certain times when it is more equitable to have one spouse receive more assets or less debt depending on childcare, current salaries, and other factors. Generally, being informed and having open communication with your soon to be Ex will lessen the tension and hopefully lead to an amicable settlement across the board.

However, reaching an agreement can be complicated, with hundreds of questions about attorneys, consultation, and the tornado of paperwork that separating brings. How do you ensure that your financial settlement benefits you? How do you know that your lawyer is really working in your best interests? With all of these concerns, it’s no wonder why Psychology Today links divorce stress to physical health problems.

As a woman, your primary focus should be ensuring that you achieve the best business transaction for you–that you and your children are set up for healthy living after the split. To that end, here are some answers and general advice about how best to go about a divorce financial settlement.

Should You Settle Before or After the Parenting Agreement?

Ideally, it is best to figure out your budget first, parenting time second, and then settle the financial agreement third. To do this, sit down with a financial advisor and outline your monthly budget to determine what you need to make sure you can live as comfortably as possible. Understand that you will have to compromise. Most likely, you will not have the same standard of living you experienced while married. At the very least, you’ll need to make sure you have enough to cover your bills and essentials.

From there, calculate how much it would cost to clothe, feed, and house each of your children. You will need to factor in how much you will be receiving or paying in child support.

When determining your budget, remember to factor in hidden costs. Ask your financial advisor about inflation and taxes to make sure every expense is accounted for.

Answering these questions first will make it much easier when discussing the parenting agreement or the financial agreement. By having all your answers ready ahead of time, you will be prepared for every question thrown at you. It will also ensure you are not agreeing to things that may cost you more down the road.

How to Make Sure Your Divorce Financial Settlement is in Your Interest

It can be hard to divide finances evenly when there is an obvious bias between you and your Ex. Maybe you’re a Stay-at-Home-Mom or the primary breadwinner in your marriage. Hiring an attorney to negotiate helps ensure you get what is rightfully owed to you, or that you are not overpaying.

You need to be honest about everything financial. Armed with the budget you outlined before, be prepared to express your needs and be open about what you can compromise on. Sharing this with your lawyer will help you and your lawyer to come to the table with all the facts laid out; this is the best way to ensure you have financial security after the separation.

If you are concerned your partner is not telling the truth about their finances (he* wouldn’t be the first!) then a divorce lawyer can help. Leave the investigating to them. You need to focus on yourself and your needs right now.

When offered a document, it’s important to remember this rule of thumb as your creed: you will have to compromise. If it sounds like you are not compromising, then it is too good to be true.

Whom to Consult Before Submitting A Settlement to the Other Side

After consulting with the financial advisor to determine your budget, you need to sit down with a divorce lawyer to figure out your best course of action. Make sure to bring your budget calculations, tax returns, pay stubs, any prenuptial or separation agreements.

If you have any other legal documentation involving your children or Ex, such as a court case, bring that paperwork too. Your lawyer needs all the information they can get.

Once you bring everything to your lawyer, you need to see what exactly your lawyer can do for you. Their job is not to punish your Ex or go for revenge: they are advocating for you. You want a lawyer who is competent and experienced at their job, and you can ensure this by how they answer the following questions:

  • How many divorce cases have you handled?
  • How did you handle those divorce cases?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • What is the best method of communicating in the future?

If your lawyer stumbles, stutters, or does not have an answer to these questions, you may want to consult other legal counsel. (For more savvy questions to ask a divorce attorney, visit here.)

Divorce Financial Settlement Must-Knows

Just like how you have questions you need to ask your lawyer, you also have questions you need to ask yourself.

  • What do you own? See if you are listed as the owner of your car, home, and other assets. Noting what you brought into the marriage could keep your Ex from claiming it.
  • What do they own? If your spouse is eligible for social security benefits, insurance payouts, or a pension plan, you may have a claim to them.
  • What do you both own? You need to factor any jointly owned assets into the final agreement. Dividing 50/50 does not always mean fair.
  • What about taxes? If you have to choose one government agency not to mess with, choose the IRS. Consulting a tax accountant will save you lots of money.

Above all, try to be as objective as possible. This is an emotional time, but money does not cry. Finding a safe space for your emotional outlet (a therapist, a coach) will honor your heart and feelings while your brain must focus on the best business transaction for you. Encouraging your brain to stick to the facts will ensure that you come out the other side prepared for the single life.

Notes

Jeanette Soltys is a Partner and Divorce Attorney at Atlanta Divorce Law Group in Alpharetta, Georgia. A passion for wanting to help children and families seeking their happily ever after led her to pursue her Juris Doctorate from Wake Forest University School of Law. Visit Jeanette Soltys’ website to learn more about her, her law firm, and the services her team offers to families.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing aftermath. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity, however, we may refer to your spouse as “he” or “husband.”