Planning For A Divorce After The Holiday Season

According to the songs, the Christmas holiday season is the happiest, most wonderful time of year. While that might be true for kids dreaming of toys, it’s typically not the case with parents facing divorce.

Many parents planning on divorcing wait until after the holidays are over before they begin tackling difficult and often emotional child custody questions. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, more divorces are filed in January than in any other month.

We know from experience over the years that many people wanting to pursue a divorce often put it off during the holiday season, for the sake of family and children and the general belief that maybe, just maybe, the spirit of the holidays might heal a broken marriage. But after the holidays pass and the same problems that lead to divorce remain or seem even more apparent, the New Year brings the resolve to file for divorce.

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, if you believe your marriage has reached the beyond-repair point and you file for divorce, do not entertain fanciful thoughts of getting back together. Your spouse will not suddenly change into a different person and the problems will not disappear. If you have yet to manage to work the problems out by now, to the point you seek a divorce, you will not do so using divorce as a tool for reconciliation.

Second, divorce planning should formally begin by meeting an attorney. Even if you have no immediate plans to file for divorce, meeting with an attorney allows you to learn about the process – how it actually works, how long it takes, and what it would cost. It gives you a chance to ask your questions about finances, property distribution, spousal and child support, and child custody.

Third, 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. Do a forensic check of your finances.

  • The end of the year typically means a mailbox full of annual statements from credit card companies, banks, and other financial institutions. Make copies of all of those documents and keep them in a safe place such as a safe deposit box or a trusted family member or friend. Begin writing down all of the key items of property you wish to retain and their values.
  • Be sure to get a credit report before you file for divorce. After you’ve seen the report, copy it and then regularly monitor it for any unusual activity.
  • Open new bank accounts (checking and savings) and get new credit cards in your name alone. Don’t use the bank you currently use for joint accounts. 

Fourth, 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. Seek out good financial advice. Not only will you need to determine your full assets and liabilities as a couple, but you will also need to determine a budget for living independently and how to make that new life financially feasible. This in turn means taking a serious inventory of your life and your goals, deciding what is truly important, what you want to pursue, and how to afford it. 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.

Fifth, keep your children as a priority and take actions consistent with furthering their best interests. Divorce will mean dissolving a household, but it will not sever parental ties. The future can be one where you have continual fighting with your ex about custody, which only creates emotional chaos for the children, or you can choose to put your marriage emotions aside and do what is best for your children and their psychological well-being.

Sixth, learn your lessons and forgive yourself. In every marriage, people go in with good intentions but perhaps missed something about their spouse or their own priorities in life. Getting a divorce is not an unpardonable sin or a permanent sign of failure. Sometimes marriages just do not work and the best path forward is to go separate ways. Learning what went wrong and becoming a stronger and wiser person will make you a better parent and a better partner for future relationships.

Seventh, build yourself a good network of friends and family on whom you can rely in this difficult transitional period. It can be daunting going through a divorce alone; having emotional support can help you stay in a better psychological space where you can make better decisions.

Eighth, begin a journal. You want to be able to document all aspects of your family life that might impact your divorce. It can be issues related to the children, problems with your spouse, suspicions, or strange financial transactions. Having a daily journal of your life will be a great asset to you and your attorney as you move through the divorce.

Ninth, deal with the emotional aspects proactively. You must keep a cool head through the divorce and not make decisions based on reactions to how you feel about your spouse. To get to a good mental space, consider utilizing a therapist. Divorce challenges even the most stable of individuals; do not be afraid to seek help. Further, if you need to learn how to handle parenting issues during this difficult time, an experienced therapist will have the techniques you need to know.

Should you need the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney in Creve Coeur and O’Fallon or have questions about your divorce situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those questions with you.

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