Making a Divorce Plan
It takes a whole hellavalot longer to get divorced than it does to get married. And it isn’t anywhere near as much fun. So all that planning that goes into a big, honkin’ wedding seems worthwhile, while the planning to get you out of your miserable marriage seems like moving to purgatory. But plan you must.
Regardless of who files for divorce, both partners and the children are dramatically affected. New living arrangements must be made, marital assets split and strategies for dealing with child custody and visitation rights devised.
Some pre-divorce planning can ensure that your interests, and those of your children, are well protected.
First, get yourself a notebook and write everything down. Whether you are initiating the divorce or you’ve just be told by your spouse that your relationship is over, you will be a bubbling cauldron of emotion: anger, fear, sadness. If you don’t have a place to keep notes, you’ll forget important information.
Next, collect your financial information. It’s important to have all the financial information you can at your fingertips. If you must delay your exit a few weeks or months so that you are armed with the information you need, then suck it up and stick around. You have way more access to the information you’ll have to provide to your lawyer while you are still in an intact family. Leaving prematurely – or booting your partner out too soon – could mean you lose access to vital information. Be smart. Be patient.
Decide where you will live. (NEVER move out of the family residence without first discussing it with your lawyer.) Will you stay in the family home or get another place? Will you be able to afford to maintain your family home? Are you planning to move out of your old neighbourhood or stay put so the kids can go to the same school? Will you rent or buy? What will you be able to afford?
Create a post-separation budget. Yah, it’s time to do a budget. I know you hate the idea of this, but if you don’t have a spending plan, then you will be sorry.
Decide what you want. From the stuff in the house to how you want to parent your children, you have to be very clear about what you want. Are you prepared to forego support to keep the family home? Will you be able to afford to carry it on your own? If you don’t know what you want, what’s important to you, what you can live with and what’s not negotiable, the whole process will take longer and cost more. Know what you want and then be prepared to negotiate to get your “must haves.”
Get yourself ready for the end.
• Have a complete medical, and get your eyes and teeth fixed. Get the kids done too.
• Give your car a tune-up and make sure it is in good working condition. Check to see if it is titled jointly or in your name only.
• Build a buddy network to get through the emotional upheaval the divorce will bring. One person you can trust is a gift. Two and you’re less likely to wear out your welcome.
• Get yourself a new email address, cell phone, bank account and credit card that only you know about. While you’re at it, check your credit report and clean up anything that’s messy.
• If you don’t have a job and will need one, start looking now!
Create a picture of your new life. Whether you do this is words, in pictures (think collage), or as a chart, you need to have a sense of what your life will be like next. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be with?
Clean up the paperwork. That means changing the beneficiary designations on your insurance, pension, and anything else your ex-spouse’s name appears on. If you had debt together, you must ensure that your name is removed from the documentation so, if the worst does happen and your partner dies or goes bankrupt, you’re not left holding the bag. Remember to get yourself some health insurance, make a new will, and check your credit report after all the old accounts have been closed.
Finally, get yourself a ledger book (or create a spreadsheet) and keep records of all child support payments made or received, all medical visits, insurance claims, uninsured medical expenses paid.