5 Steps to Championing Your Divorce

Divorce is Not for Sissies” is about the realities of divorce and how it too often leads to painful and long-term emotional, financial, social, and parenting consequences. Unless you’re made of steel, pain in divorce is unavoidable. Long-term trauma can be mitigated if you assume the position of a winner or champion in your divorce. There is, of course, no true winning in divorce but there is surviving, mitigating damage, and putting you and your family on track for a better future.

Whichever end you’re on—initiator or responder—you need to decide that divorce will not define you. At the same time, it’s going to be a dominant force in your life for a bit. That bit of time may be short or quite long depending on your circumstances and how you manage the process.

So, what are the essential steps?

  1. Acknowledge that you can’t do it alone. Build your support team. Initially, it might be your best friend and sister or mother. But don’t stop there! Your best friend can’t fix this for you—they don’t have the skills or knowledge.
  2. Build your divorce team. You need emotional, psychological, financial, and “legal” help. A divorce coach, therapist, divorce financial planner, parenting coach, mediator, real estate and mortgage professional who specializes in divorce and maybe a lawyer 
  3. Stop burdening your family, friends, and children. Especially your kids, whether young or adult, don’t want to shoulder your divorce! If they are young or teens, you can create long-term damage for them. Your family and friends will be there for you, ask questions, call to check in, but they can not fix this for you and trashing your soon-to-be-ex is going to grow very old very fast.
  4. Get organized. Gather your financial statements, tax returns, trust documents, will, insurance policies, business documents and financial reports. Put them in a safe place (electronically or physically).
  5. Develop a plan. Do NOT pick up the phone and call a lawyer! You are setting yourself up for an unnecessarily miserable and expensive divorce. Call a divorce coach, a divorce financial analyst, a mediator. Make a plan to champion your divorce. It does not start with an attorney, even if eventually you need the services of a lawyer to deal with a contentious divorce.

You got this. It’s going to be hard but you can do it and you’ll be glad you took charge.

4 Things to Do BEFORE You Divorce

before you divorce

If you’re reading this, then obviously you’re thinking about ending your marriage. Before you initiate your divorce, I’m going to ask you to take a few steps to ensure the best outcome for you should you decide to move forward. This is not a decision to be taken lightly and a little preparation can go a long way.

The reality for lots of couples that have invested in each other for many years is that if you’re going to end the relationship, you now have to stop thinking emotionally and start thinking financially.

#1 Evaluate What You Really Know About Your Finances

If your answer is anything but “Oh, I handle all our finances, I know exactly where we are,” then you have work to do. If you have been out of touch with your family finances for more than five years, don’t even try to get caught up. Get yourself to a CDFA® (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) ASAP! You can find one in your area by going to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts. Do this BEFORE you tell your spouse you want a divorce. Your CDFA® will help you do a little digging to get some information before the information mysteriously disappears. They’ll also help you see what your financial life after divorce might look like.

#2 Gather Documents Before your Divorce Starts

This is the one thing you can do to save yourself a ton of money in the divorce process. Anything you can gather before you meet with either an attorney, a mediator, or a CDFA® will reduce the amount you ultimately have to spend out-of-pocket. Here a quick list of must-have documents.

  • 3 years of tax returns
  • 6 months of bank statements on all accounts
  • 6 months of statements on each of your marital and separate investment accounts including 401k, deferred
  • compensation, ESPP, ESOP, 403b, 529, IRA, etc. If you are baffled by those different account types or you’re not
  • even sure if your spouse has a retirement plan, get to a CDFA® now!
  • Most recent 4 paystubs
  • Most recent mortgage statement on any properties owned
  • Copies of all insurance policies and annuities (the policies themselves as well as statements)
  • VIN numbers and mileage on vehicles owned
  • Most recent statements on debts, credit cards, car loans, etc.
  • Details of any business interests, e.g. S Corps, LLC’s, and partnerships

#3 Get Organized

Once you’ve gathered all the data, find a way to keep it all organized. Some people create a 3-ring binder with tables for each section, others put all their documents in a protected electronic environment like Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive. This is best when you need quick and easy access in a mobile format. Again, this will save you a lot of money down the road.

#4 Research Alternative Divorce Processes

There are several ways to get a divorce, each with its own pros and cons. Which method you choose will be largely dictated by the relationship between you and your spouse. If you are afraid for your or your children’s safety for any reason at all of it your spouse is denying you access to enough cash to survive, get a lawyer.

If you believe you and your spouse will be able to rationally discuss and negotiate the details of your divorce and be fair and honest, you might consider a do-it-yourself divorce or use an internet service to guide you. Beware: just because you and your spouse are getting along today doesn’t mean it will always be this way.

Your county’s divorce website will most likely give you an overview of the process and forms you’ll need if you going the DIY approach. There are lots of cheap internet services, too, that can produce divorce forms for your jurisdiction, but not all counties accept their forms as-is. These cheaper alternatives may seem attractive upfront but the money it may take to correct any mistakes you make along the way could cost you thousands of dollars.

If your financial situation is a bit more complex, e.g., there’s a pension involved or one party is self-employed, or the idea
of DIY frightens you, then you should consider using a CDFA® as a financial neutral as part of a collaborative team
or as a mediator to help you craft a fair settlement. Your CDFA® may also be able to get your legal documents
prepared for you, too. When couples go this route, they are more likely to remain friends—it’s a respectful, honest way
to go through the process and saves both parties significant money by not having to pay expensive lawyers.

As a last resort, if one or both parties can’t manage to cooperate at any level and seem determined to go to war, then hiring attorneys may be your only option. Unfortunately, you’ll need to say goodbye to about $15,000 per spouse, at a minimum. A little preparation before you move forward with a divorce can go a long way towards reducing the cost of your divorce and creating a fair settlement. Wishing you a gentle divorce and a bright future!

The divorce process can be scary and overwhelming. Starting with a plan and professionals that you trust to guide you through the process can be key in making sure you’re ready for your future. If you’re thinking about divorce schedule your complimentary divorce strategy session where we’ll explore your options and connect you with any resources you might need.

I want a divorce…Now what?

It’s no secret that over 50% of marriages end in divorce, even more if you’re in your 2nd or 3rd marriage. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your perspective. I’m a believer that life is short and everyone is entitled to their happiness. My guess is that if you’re not happy in your marriage, your spouse isn’t either.

If you’re thinking about ending your marriage there a few steps you need to take before you initiate your divorce. These will help to ensure the best outcome for you should you decide to move forward. This is not a decision to be taken lightly and a little preparation can go a long way. The reality is that you now have to stop thinking emotionally and start thinking financially.

#1 Get Real and Start Planning

Divorce may be the toughest this you’ll ever do. Believe me, I know. Right now all you may be thinking about is how miserable you are and that you have to get out. Before you pull the plug though, take a deep breath. Then start planning so that you (and your children) have the best foundation for a happier future.

Start by assessing your current lifestyle and what you’d be able to afford on your own. What’s your current budget and spending? How much will it cost you to live on your own? How much more will you need to get by? Will this come from child support, alimony, a new job? If child support or alimony, best get some help figuring out how much that will be. If you need a new job, will that require more schooling or training? Do you want to keep the marital home? If so, can you refinance it in order to keep it? Can you really afford it? Too often this is an overly emotional decision. Will the kids really be happier in their current house if you’re struggling to pay the mortgage and utility bills?

Finally, what do you want your life to look like in five, ten, twenty years? What other situations in your life have you encountered where you had to call on your best qualities to succeed? Which qualities will you need now to get you where you want to go? How will you define a “successful divorce”? How will you take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually over the next difficult months to ensure that success?

# 2 Get Divorce Support

Now that you’ve taken stock and assessed what you’ll need. What kind of support will you need? A good therapist for emotional strength? A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) or a CDFA®-Mediator to help you plan financially and for what a realistic settlement will look like? A divorce coach to help with all the decisions you’ll need to make along the way? A lawyer if you think litigation is inevitable?

A piece of advice, your first phone call should not be a lawyer! Assess your alternatives and ask for support where applicable but don’t assume you’ll need a lawyer for your divorce.

#3 Protect Yourself Financially

You will need to set some things up financially before your spouse is aware that you want a divorce. Start by opening your own checking and savings accounts and make sure there’s enough in them to get you by for two or three months. Get your credit report and start monitoring it periodically. Apply for a credit card or two in your own name. Last, consider you will, as well as beneficiaries on investment accounts and insurance policies. You should make appropriate chances in case something happens to you.

The divorce process can be scary and overwhelming. Starting with a plan and professionals that you trust to guide you through the process can be key in making sure you’re ready for you future. If you’re thinking about divorce schedule your complimentary divorce strategy session where we’ll explore your options and connect you with any resources you might need.

Nine Reasons You DON’T Want to Get a Divorce (YET)

So you’ve had it with your spouse and are thinking it’s really over. You’ve mentally prepared for moving on and are just waiting for the right opportunity or the next major blowup to pull the plug. There are many reasons why you might want to hit the pause button on that divorce.

Hastily making a short-term decision that may not serve you well in the long run. You may not have exhausted potential sources of help to repair the marriage. Someone may be overly emphasizing the positives of being free versus the negatives. A failure to address your own shortcomings and character flaws that may also be contributing to your unhappiness.

Each of these deserves discussion in its own right. The point of this particular piece, though, is to identify primary reasons you may want to hold off before you tell your spouse you’re done with the marriage or move out (even if your spouse has already told you s/he wants a divorce).

Unless you or your children are at risk of physical or serious psychological harm, here are nine reasons why you should pause before pulling the trigger on a separation or divorce:

  1. You might not have enough money to pay your bills, e.g., mortgage/rent, groceries, utilities, car payment, attorney’s fees etc.
  2. You could jeopardize custody/shared custody of your children
  3. You might make a knee-jerk decision on the wrong divorce process and lose a substantial amount of time and money
  4. Your retirement could be compromised
  5. Your credit could be destroyed
  6. You could lose assets, money, or property to which you’re entitled if you don’t understand the nuances of property division and taxation before you put the divorce in motion
  7. You might say or do stupid things that will damage your future divorce settlement, your relationship with your (ex) spouse or harm your children
  8. You could lose access to important information and documents that could make getting an optimal settlement more difficult and/or expensive to obtain
  9. You might unnecessarily leave money on the table if you jump too soon (e.g., future social security benefits, bonuses)

What can you do to avoid these mistakes? Start with a Certified Divorce Coach®. S/he can help you explore if you’re ready for separation or divorce and, if not, what steps you might take. If you do decide to move forward with a separation/divorce, s/he can assist you with determining how to tell your spouse, children, family, and friends, as well as choosing the right divorce process and lawyer.

You should also talk with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) who can look at your complete financial picture and assess what impact a divorce could have on your ability to pay your bills, keep your house, put the kids through college, or fund your retirement.

Additionally, you should talk with two or three different family law attorneys to identify where you may be vulnerable and how best to proceed legally.

If you know or suspect your spouse has serious psychological or psychiatric issues, talk with a qualified psychotherapist about how to best move forward. If you or your children are at risk for physical harm, this is imperative! Above all, protect yourself and your children.

It may very well be that the best path for you and your children, overall, is a divorce. A few years from now you’ll be really glad you took the time now to address the issues that could adversely affect your long-term outcome. 

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