Have your financial records in order
One thing that can greatly expedite reaching a divorce settlement is having copies of your financial documents ready to go from the beginning. Those documents include your most recent:
- Bank statements – joint and individual;
- Mortgage statement indicating the amount of the monthly payment and mortgage balance; also, a copy of the deed;
- Second mortgage or home equity line statements;
- Pay stubs (last three stubs are required);
- Tax returns (last three or four years returns with paperwork like W2’s, 1099s, etc.);
- Insurance statements (home, auto and healthcare);
- Auto loans, titles to vehicles;
- Credit card statements (joint and individual);
- Retirement fund statements; and
- Investment account statements (individual and joint).
Having these documents ready for the first meeting with your attorney makes the job of the legal professionals involved much easier. Doing all your prep work before an initial meeting also makes it easier on you in one sense in that you are being proactive and taking steps toward your post-divorce life. That doesn’t take away from the fact you are still going through an emotionally trying experience.
So, how do you prepare for that?
The emotional challenge
Whether you initiated the divorce or not, ending a marriage is an emotional experience. You will be affected by the process and outcome. The best you can hope for is “less lousy”.
How do you do that?
First, recognize you will be going through a significant life transition and will need a support network. That network can consist of family, friends, clergy, therapists, barber/hair stylist, pretty much anybody who can lend a kind and considerate ear and be there for you. Having at least one or two “go-to” people will be key to dealing with the ups and downs of going through the process and life afterwards. That said, turn to those people for emotion al support – not financial advice or legal advice!
I encourage divorcing spouses to focus on the future relationship that you want to have with your ex. If you have children, this is particularly important as you will have to see your ex in order to raise your children. Part of that focus should be picturing what your future relationship might look like:
- Will you both attend parent-teacher night?
- When attending sporting events and other activities, will you sit together, close by or avoid contact altogether?
- What kind of relationship will you have with the parents of your ex? If you are close now and want to continue that after the divorce, how will that be received by your ex? How will it impact the kids?
There are many other possible considerations. By thinking about these things now, it can help you get through the process in a way that doesn’t damage relationships you want to keep.
For example, blaming your ex and trying to punish him/her in the divorce will have an impact on relationships with his/her family. If you want a relationship with the family of your ex after the divorce, your tone and approach are something to consider in conducting yourself during the divorce.
Divorce is not easy. Nor should it be. Ending a marriage is a pretty serious thing. Yet by being prepared in advance from a paperwork standpoint, you help clear a path for smoother settlement. Likewise, your emotional preparation can lay the foundation for you and your family after the divorce. This doesn’t mean there won’t be a bump or two along the way. You will just be ready for them.