Divorce often looms on the horizon for quite some time before a couple finally pulls the trigger. In many cases, by the time they file the documents, people are emotionally prepared for the process. But being emotionally prepared and being ready in a practical sense are two different things. Ending a marriage is a tricky proposition, and creating a divorce strategy ahead of time often helps people through the process.
There are a number of things to consider when creating a divorce strategy. Each situation is unique, so not everything applies equally across the board. Your choices depend on many factors: length of marriage, whether or not you have children, employment status, and various needs. That said, here are ten common steps to consider when creating a divorce strategy.
1. Prepare A Divorce Strategy Ahead Of Time
In most cases, divorce shouldn’t come as a shock. People often consider it for a long time—as they should, it’s a life-changing decision. But this also provides the advantage of being able to prepare. Take steps to set up a divorce strategy ahead of time. Meet with an attorney, start saving money, and figure out exactly what you need and what from a divorce settlement. You can even make plans for when the deal is done.
2. Know The Laws In Your State
Laws regulating divorce vary a great deal from one state to the next. There’s no excuse for not being aware of them. In fact, not knowing can cost you when it comes to child custody, spousal support, and other areas. For example, Oregon is an equitable distribution state as opposed to our neighbors, Washington and Oregon, which have community property statutes. This impacts how the court divides assets and debts when it comes to the divorce settlement. As such, it can have a lasting impact. And this is just one example of how laws differ from state to state.
3. Get Your Finances In Order
Divorce often cost quite a bit of money, which probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Whether we’re talking about a simple, do-it-yourself split or a full, knock-down-drag-out courtroom trial, there are expenses every step of the way. Even just filing the paperwork comes with a fee. Every appearance, hearing, and motion, adds its own additional expenses. It’s even more if you hire an attorney. Part of creating a divorce strategy should include saving money so you don’t get blindsided when fees pop up.
Are you good at juggling things and keeping details straight? Good, you’ll need to be as you navigate divorce. It’s like lobbing a hand grenade into your schedule. You’ll have appearances to make, meetings with your attorney, mediation appointments, and all kinds of places to be. There are forms to fill out, documents to share and collect, assets to divide, and more. It may initially seem like a headache to keep everything straight, but getting as organized as possible is a key step of creating a divorce strategy.
5. Gather Financial Records
Piggybacking on the last step, one of the most important places to organize is your financial records. Splitting up assets and debts has a huge impact on your economic footing moving forward. As such, it behooves you to prepare. During this stage, you need to disclose all of your assets. This includes bank accounts, pensions, 401(K)s, and property. List all of your debts, including mortgages, car payments, student loans, and credit card balances. Know as much as possible about your collective financial state. How much do you make? How much does your spouse earn? What property is in each of your names? Understanding your finances is a significant part of creating a divorce strategy.
6. Creating A Divorce Strategy For The Kids
Divorce is tough on everyone, but it’s important to look after the most vulnerable participants: children. Emotions run high when a case involves kids and people don’t always think straight. Learn about child custody laws in Oregon, how the state calculates child support, and topics like visitation and parenting plans. But the legal stuff is only part of it. You have a lot going on, but so do they. Children need support during the process. They need child care, they need looking after like any other time. Additionally, there are added pressures and emotions to deal with. It’s vital to keep an eye on them and what they need and to let them know they’re loved even in this stressful time.
7. Safeguard Credit
During a marriage, you and your spouse enter into all kinds of joint financial arrangements. You establish shared credit cards, sign for car loans, and put your names on mortgages. Divorce doesn’t automatically change any of these agreements, which is important to know as it can impact your credit. Divorce settlements often detail which spouse remains responsible for which debts. They usually even contain provisions that your ex must make certain payments or even refinance a loan to remove your name. That’s great if it happens, but if it doesn’t, you may take the hit. It can hurt your credit, and in some cases, if your name is still on a bill, creditors can come after you to collect. Part of creating a divorce strategy should entail keeping an eye on your credit.
8. Create A Support Network
During what can be a chaotic, emotional, trying time, it’s important to look after your own mental health. Having a support system in place has a substantial impact on this. Just knowing who has your back, where to turn to for both legal and personal advice, and even financial help is essential. You may need someone to watch the kids while you’re in mediation. Or maybe you just need a friend to have a beer with and remember what normal feels like. Friends, family, loved ones, and even support groups are often vital in divorce.
9. Hire A Divorce Lawyer
There are more resources available for DIY divorce than ever before. But it doesn’t take much for the dissolution of marriage to get complicated. Even if you don’t wind up hiring a divorce attorney, consider exploring your options. This is especially true if your spouse has representation. An experienced attorney can help with creating a divorce strategy and guide you through the process. Sometimes you need a skilled pro in your corner.
10. Plan For The Future
Creating a divorce strategy isn’t always just about the divorce. Caught in the middle, it’s all too easy to get lost in the day-to-day fight. But divorce is about more than right now, it’s about the future. Don’t lose sight of that, even if all you want is to get through and put this behind you. There are practical concerns, like changes in tax status, child custody and support, and finding a new place to live to consider. All of that needs to be addressed, but don’t forget to take the time to look at the positive, to consider the ways your life will improve. Even if it’s not much, dedicate a little time to thinking about the possibilities. It can do wonders for your frame of mind.
Ending a marriage represents a titanic shift. Hopefully, divorce is a move in a positive direction, but the process often turns chaotic and stressful. There’s conflict to attend to, forms to file, bills to pay, and unexpected twists and turns. Creating a divorce strategy ahead of time often helps smooth out the process. You’ll surely still encounter some unexpected bumps, but preparation can help keep them to a minimum.