Divorce rarely comes as a complete surprise, though some spouses treat it that way. Couples know if they are having problems if the marriage is not exactly working – they may even be in couples counseling or see other warning signs. Even if the spouses hope to save a marriage, the reality is that it may just as likely fail.
Despite spouses knowing their marriage is in trouble, when the time for divorce arrives, too often spouses treat it as a surprise and feel quite unprepared for all the challenges divorce presents.
Divorce planning is a way for a spouse to prepare for divorce well before it happens – if it even happens. It is a form of education and empowerment. It may not be romantic, but it is smart – and it does not mean the marriage is over.
What does divorce planning involve?
First, divorce planning should begin by meeting an attorney. Even if you have no immediate plans to file for divorce, meeting with an attorney gives you the opportunity to learn about the process – how it actually works, how long it takes, what it would cost. It gives you a chance to ask all of your questions about finances, property distribution, spousal and child support and child custody.
Second, after meeting an attorney, you can begin the pre-planning process. After meeting with the attorney, you probably will get a list of material you need to collect regarding finances – bank statements, investment account statements, credit reports, mortgage statements. You can do a forensic check of your finances. You can prepare for life during divorce and after divorce by putting together a budget, envisioning lifestyle choices and options given finances and the need to move from one household to two separate households but still within the same school district. You can consult a financial advisor to determine whether downsizing is necessary or a good idea in the short term to ensure long term financial security.
As you can see, divorce planning is not a marriage killer – it is part of the process of self-education and self-preparation. If you think your spouse might file first, having gone through the planning process gives you the ability to respond quickly in a smart rather than emotional way. You can know whether you want a high or low conflict divorce and how you will proceed financially and arrange for custody and support during the divorce. You can know your must-haves in the settlement negotiation process. It puts you at an advantage instead of a disadvantage.
If you have questions about the divorce planning process, contact us – we can help.