How to Prepare for Divorce - 17 Tips from a Divorce Expert

Divorce is hard, so you should learn how to prepare for a divorce. These 17 divorce tips for men and women will help you.

1) Be Certain You Want a Divorce

Divorce is a last resort and not the only option in an unhappy marriage. Divorce is often expensive, messy, complicated, and painful. Have you exhausted all your options to save your marriage? Divorce does not necessarily solve many of the reasons you may be unhappy. Consider marriage counseling or living apart for a while as an interim solution. If the pain of staying in the marriage is worse than the fear of a single life, then maybe it is time to go. Just be sure you do not regret your decision to get a divorce.

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2) Accept that Divorce is Happening

You are getting a divorce. The vows you made, the life you created, the marriage you had—it is all ending. Divorce is the death of a marriage. You never thought it would happen to you. You are probably experiencing a range of conflicting and confusing emotions, including denial, anger, guilt, sadness, fear, relief, and everything in between. All these feelings are normal under the circumstances, but it is time to step up and prepare for the divorce process.

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3) Hope for the Best, but Prepare for the Worst

Divorce can be unpredictable. Initially, you may think you and your spouse will work things out civilly, but the next thing you know years have passed without any clear resolution, and you have a stack of legal bills. In other cases, you may think you are going to have a lot of conflict with your spouse, but it turns out that both of you want to resolve the process quickly and efficiently. Or maybe you are somewhere in between. Every divorce is unique with its own dynamics, and it is hard to foresee the outcome. While you should be optimistic about getting through the process favorably, prepare yourself for a fight. Even in the best of circumstances, divorce takes twice as long and is twice as expensive as you think it will be. Prepare yourself.

4) Plan for the Cost of Divorce

Divorce can be very expensive. You will need funds to pay for an effective team, which will do their best to assist you in managing the process and securing a financial future for yourself. Before you even consider filing for divorce, you may want to think about setting aside some cash on your own. This money can then be used to cover the cost of retaining an attorney, hiring a certified divorce financial analyst, and enlisting the help of a therapist to work through your own emotional issues surrounding the end of your marriage.

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5) Setup New Bank Accounts and Credit Cards

You may not be able to get rid of your old joint accounts just yet, but you can certainly begin to set up new accounts for your soon-to-be single life. Make sure that you form these new bank accounts and that you transfer some funds into the account. Most notably, you will want to switch any direct deposits from your employer into your individual account.

You should also consider opening new credit card accounts that are only in your name. This tactic can help you build up your own credit for the time when you may need to purchase a new car, get a new mortgage on your own, or encounter any number of other scenarios that require a good credit score. Your credit score will need to reflect that you have the capability to responsibly borrow and repay your loans without the assistance of your spouse.

6) Gather Your Financial Records

Ideally, you will have five years’ worth of documents, including tax returns, payroll stubs, benefits information, bank statements, investment accounts and property information.  Make copies of everything and keep them outside of the house — either in a private safe deposit box or at the home of a trusted friend or family member. Having evidence of all of your financials will help speed up discussions during the divorce, and it will safeguard you in case something goes missing.

7) Inventory Your Assets

While you are gathering your financial records, begin an inventory of all of your assets. Separate property usually includes anything you owned before the marriage, any gifts given solely to you, or inheritances. Anything acquired during the marriage is usually considered marital property.

Take digital, date-stamped photos of your valuables such as jewelry, antiques and collectibles. This may seem extreme now, but it is not uncommon for things to disappear once the process starts.

8) Build a Team of Professionals to Help You

As CEO of your divorce, you need to have a team of specialized professionals to help you navigate the complex process. The three key players are an experienced family law attorney, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and a therapist. A family law attorney—the most important person on your divorce team—will help you navigate the legal elements of the case and represent your interests. A divorce financial planner (CDFA) does the math, from helping you complete your all-important Statement of Net Worth/Financial Affidavit to determining the long-term impact of different settlement proposals. A therapist will help you work through your emotions to keep you focused on the big picture.

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9) Set Realistic Goals for Your Future

What do you want after the divorce is over? Do you want to stay in the house or maybe receive (or pay) a certain amount of spousal support? What about custody of children? You need to determine your most important goals for the divorce process and stay focused on the big picture. If you are mired in the little details and start fighting for that coffee mug you got on vacation years ago, you end up racking up expenses and only hurting yourself in the end.

10) Cut Unnecessary Expenses

It is no secret that divorces are costly. From the moment you sense that your marriage is heading in that direction, you need to redraw your budget and determine how you will accommodate not only the expenses associated with divorce, but also for your new, single life. In order to help build your savings, it is likely that you will have to adjust your lifestyle and cut out anything unnecessary.

11) Monitor Your Credit Report

In order to emerge from the divorce as fiscally unscathed as possible, you need to be fully aware of your current financial situation. To paint the clearest picture, obtain a copy of your credit report, paying close attention to any outstanding debts.

If there is anything that does not add up, you will want to ask your attorney for assistance before you ask your spouse for full disclosure of records. Additionally, it is wise to monitor your credit report throughout the divorce process to avoid any surprises later on.

12) Treat Divorce as a Business Transaction where You are the CEO

As cold as it sounds, the difference between marriage and divorce is a piece of paper. While marriage is about love, divorce is about money. As you go through the divorce process, treat it as a business transaction, as the decisions you make will affect you for the rest of your life. Put your emotions aside, and step up as CEO of your divorce. You must make rational decisions regarding dividing property, child custody, and spousal and child support.

13) Keep Healthy and Fit

The bedtime pint of ice cream starts looking very tasty when you are going through a stressful situation. Or maybe you are thinking about dusting off that bottle of vodka or having an extra cigarette. You are sleeping less. Days between visiting the gym become fewer and fewer, and soon you realize that you are gaining weight and feeling extra sluggish. Do not let that happen to you. Divorce is exhausting mentally and physically; one of the best things you can do to lift your mood and reduce stress is by staying healthy. Physical strength can serve as a good foundation for mental stamina. Go to the gym, take a walk, do some yoga, and clean up your diet. Your body—and your mind—will thank you for it.

14) Lean on Friends and Support Groups

Divorce can be a lonely time, but you should know that you do not have to go through the experience alone. Speak with close friends to help you manage the process, and share what you are feeling. Consider joining divorce support groups, such as DivorceCare and Second Saturday, and many churches and religious institutions can also help. Having others by your side makes it easier to get through the dark times and toughest days in one piece.

15) Take Care of the Children

Divorce can have a traumatic effect on children, with repercussions for the rest of their lives. What do you want them to say about your divorce ten or twenty years from now? Learn how to tell your children about divorce, and try to understand what they are seeing from their eyes. They may act out, have falling grades, or exhibit changes in behavior that you need to monitor closely. If you love your children, do everything you can to protect and reassure them during this volatile process.

16) Act Civil with Your Spouse

If possible, be civil with your spouse. Whether by text, email, or in person, try to avoid a high-emotional confrontation with every communication. You are getting divorced for a reason, of course, but it does not mean you should create extra conflict in every possible situation. Even if your spouse is mean, abusive, or unpleasant, when communicating, treat him or her with respect. Tense and unpleasant communication can not only hurt you if you go to court, but it can also lead to much larger legal bills and often add unnecessary complexity to your divorce.

17) Know You Will Make It

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Divorce can feel overwhelming, but you will get through it. Focus on one minute, one hour, or one day at a time. This time in your life will end, even though it may not seem it will at the moment. It is not going be easy, but divorce does not have ruin your life either. Just take one step and then another and another, and those steps will add up, and soon you will be done with the process. You will have the rest of your life ahead of you, and divorce will be in the rearview mirror. You can do it. You will do it. Have faith and believe in yourself.