On television,divorces seem to happen quickly. One partner walks in the door and announces, “I want a divorce,” or the couple has a big fight and one of them says, “That’s it! I’m filing for divorce!” In many “real life” instances, though a divorce is more of a slow burn. Sure there are those times when spouses angrily separate and one or the other moves out, but in most cases you see it coming.
Because of this, you want to be financially prepared – especially if you’re the one initiating the divorce from your spouse. Women generally operate on emotion, but when it comes to divorce you need to know whether you can afford to be divorced.
Every divorce is unique, but there are certain, specific documents and financial paperwork that is required when you’re filing, whether you’re using a divorce mediator or working with attorneys. It’s wise to get your financial house in order and gather required documentation before you reach out to a divorce mediator or a divorce lawyer.
Here are ways to prepare for your divorce:
- Understand your expenses and try to determine what your future expenses will be once you’re single. Many people underestimate their spending so we would urge you to grab a notebook and track your spending for a couple of weeks – write down everything you spend, from the newspaper you buy to the groceries you pick up on the way home from work. When planning for future expenses, don’t forget to factor in insurance payments (Vehicle, home and health), utilities, groceries, car maintenance bills, etc.
- Don’t work with a one-size-fits-all attorney. Every divorce is as unique as the couple involved in it.
- Know where the family financial records are and gather copies of them. You will want to have copies of checking and savings account statements, retirement and investment account statements, documentation of outstanding debts for the mortgage, credit card bills and others, pay stubs, a list of the assets and debts you brought into the marriage and those that were accumulated during the marriage and copies of income tax returns.
If you haven’t been involved in the family finances expect pushback when you’re attempting to gather this information. If you and your spouse are aiming for an amicable divorce and are working with a divorce mediator to make that a reality, there should be a free exchange of information. If, however, your divorce is adversarial you may be hard-pressed to access the financial information unless you’ve been involved in it during your marriage. This is a reason we urge women to not give up their financial identity and to not relinquish control of the family finances. Stay involved and stay informed.
If you feel a divorce is on the horizon, refrain from making any long-term or major financial decisions and be ultra-conservative in your spending habits. Prepare now, as far in the future as you can, for the time when you’re single and are responsible for making your own way financially.