Divorce can be a messy process, one you want to end quickly so you can move on with your life. It’s emotional; it’s tiring and has the ability to affect your rational thinking. However, there are negative consequences of jumping into divorce. It can cause you financial stress, anger and missing out on the assets you deserve.
Before you sign your name on the dotted line and cut legal ties, we recommend asking yourself these eight questions to achieve a better outcome for your divorce.
1. Do I know where I stand financially?
One of the primary goals of the divorce process is the fair distribution of marital assets and debts. To ensure you get your fair share, you need to have a clear picture of where you and your spouse stand financially.
First, determine what you own. Assets like a home or vehicle can be split fairly easy while other not-so-obvious assets might include pension plans, inheritances or belongings brought into the marriage.
Second, you’ll need to determine what you owe. Remember, it doesn’t matter whose name the debt is in. The debt will be split based upon who’s more financially able to pay off the debt. The easiest way to determine this amount is by obtaining a copy of your credit report. You’ll also need to gather documentation of you and your spouse’s income with pay stubs and/or tax returns.
2. Have I evaluated the joint accounts?
If you’re worried your spouse will clean out any joint accounts, you can protect yourself by freezing credit cards, savings, money markets and other investments. This will keep you and your spouse from being able to access until a settlement has been determined. Once the divorce is finalized, the balance owed will be transferred to the party the court deems responsible for the debt.
Regardless of the situation, we recommend speaking with an attorney first to identify the best plan of action for joint accounts. Also, be sure to alert creditors to the fact that you’re going through a divorce so they can make the necessary account redistributions and changes of address.
3. Have I assessed my post-divorce budget?
Before you sign the divorce papers, it’s imperative to figure out your new budget. You’ll need to calculate your new cost of living and expenses on a smaller income. Not only does this shed light on how much you’ll need in your new life, but influence how you and your attorney will negotiate during the divorce settlement.
4. Have I established credit in my name?
If you don’t have any credit in your name, you need to establish some now. You can do this by obtaining a credit card through your bank or credit union. In many cases, someone finds themselves having spent years sharing credit with their spouse. Once you have a credit card in your name, use it sparingly and make sure you’re able to pay it off each month.
5. Have I explored my goals of custody?
If you have children, custody is probably the first thing on your mind. In absence of extreme circumstances, you’ll most likely share custody of the children. We recommend taking time to review your work schedule, your child’s schedule and other obligations that may come up. And if possible, come up with an arrangement that gives both you and your spouse quality time with children.
6. Have I figured out my living situation?
One of the most common questions we receive from clients is whether or not they can move out of the house. Unless there’s a case of abuse, don’t move without discussing the issue with your attorney first. Moving out of the marital home may have a negative impact on your case.
How you behave in the weeks and months leading up to the divorce can affect your chances of winning the residence. For example, moving in with a relative six weeks prior to it won’t improve your chances of winning ownership of the home.
7. Do I need to buy or sell anything before the divorce?
If you’ve been trying to buy or sell something like a car, we recommend doing so before filing out the divorce papers. In most scenarios, a judge will issue the order once your papers are filed that prohibit your spouse from buying or selling marital property. They do this in order to protect both parties to lessen the risk of someone draining the accounts.
8. Have I explored my options for a good divorce attorney?
It’s easier and less expensive if you and your spouse are able to settle some issues without litigation. However, it’s always wise to interview at least three divorce attorneys before coming to a decision. It’s best to partner with an attorney who understands the value of settling quickly but is also willing to fight for your case should the need arise.
You may feel eager to sign your name on the divorce papers, but it’s important not to rush the process. You’ll be making many difficult decisions during divorce and it’s best to do so with a clear head. And just as it is with any life-altering decision, it’s best to take your time, learn where you stand financially and align yourself with an experienced attorney to protect your rights.
To learn more about the divorce process or to discuss your particular case, we recommend you reach out to our trusted experts at (405) 701-6376.
I’m not 100% certain I want a divorce.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the situation, it doesn’t hurt to take time and explore all your options. In this free checklist, we share 30 questions to consider before making the decision to divorce. Click below to access your copy now.