Even if you are not quite ready to get divorced, or know someone who might
be, you need to be informed and
Deciding to Divorce is a complex process. Deciding how easy or difficult
the process will be depends on you and how your spouse responds. The better
prepared you are
financially, will in part dictate how smooth or turbulent the divorce obstacle course will be.
Depending on the make-up of your marriage, there are some legal, emotional
and financial Divorce “Smarts” with which you should be equipped.
- Consult with an attorney and a mediator, or an attorney who is also a mediator.
It's a good idea, especially if you have children or assets. Choose
the right person for you – someone who represents who you are and
your divorce style. If you don’t have easy access to the family
funds, start putting some money aside so you can afford to pay an upfront
retainer, which is almost always required. It is best not to navigate
a divorce on your own. You wouldn’t perform your own open heart
surgery. Would you? Ask lots of questions. Choose the attorney or mediator
who will listen and pay attention to your wants and needs. See someone
before you are ready to do anything so you don’t make some common mistakes.
- Make Copies. Make Copies. Make Copies.
Photocopy every important, relevant financial document you can get your
hands on. I would say go back and make copies of documents for the last
three years of your marriage. This should include tax returns, bank checking
account statements, pension, stock, portfolio statements, credit card
statements and pay stubs to supply your lawyer or mediator.
- Avoid Damaging Credit Problems.
If you are using a joint credit card, you are still responsible for any
charges made by your spouse. If charges are not paid, those defaults can
end up on
your credit report. Establish credit cards and accounts in your own name to build and protect
- Make Sure You Have Medical Coverage.
Medical insurance coverage usually ends at divorce. If you are on your
spouse's insurance plan, you should be able to continue coverage for
up to 18 or 36 months under COBRA. Under this plan someone has to pay
the premiums. These premiums can be very expensive so you may want to
consider shopping around for different coverage. Today there are insurance
carriers with lower premiums than offered by COBRA.
- Take Home and Asset Inventory.
Know what you have! Write down your assets, debts, and what is in your
home. It's helpful to compile lists. The more information you have,
the better. Your attorney or mediator will thank you. You may want to
consider taking photos or videos of your home contents. This may help
in the division of personal property. You may want to make copies of family
photos and CDs. You would be surprised how the division of these items
can sometimes cause arguments and stress.
- Divorce Has Tax Consequences.
There are important tax ramifications with real estate, deferred compensation
and other assets. If a stock is valued at $3,000, it may only be worth
$2,600 in cash after capital gains taxes are paid. It would not be the
same as receiving $3,000.00 in cash in a divorce settlement. In fairly
dividing the assets, you must consider the tax consequences before the
division. Consult with your accountant to discuss the tax ramifications
of your possible asset allocation.
- Fully Understand the Assets You Choose.
When you are choosing which assets you want,
choose carefully. If you want the house, educate yourself about the fair market value.
Keep in mind you have to make mortgage payments, pay taxes, interest,
insurance, utilities etc. Will you be able to afford this once the divorce
takes place? Pensions are usually taxable when you take out the funds.
- Stay in Your Home.
Unless you fear physical or emotional harm,
don’t move out of your home. Talk to your lawyer or mediator before you make
your move. Leaving the marital residence can have major ramifications.
- Consider Different Professionals to Help You.
In some cases you will need experts such as an accountant, appraiser, or
therapist. A good attorney and/or mediator will be able to recommend these
types of professionals to help you. Divorce is more of an emotional issue
than you may realize.
- Choose your Friends Carefully.
When you have developed relationships as a couple, you never know who may
end up on your spouse’s side and turning on you or even testifying
against you later. Consult with a therapist who can keep you thinking
clearly in order to focus on your divorce plan. Confide in your therapist
and let the friends that were part of your life before your marriage be
part of your healing process, not necessarily part of the divorce process.
Divorce can take its toll on you emotionally, financially and legally.
Being prepared will give you the tools and the strength to make better decisions.
My advice? Try to make your divorce as uncomplicated as possible! Get prepared.
Call me to schedule your free consultation 212. 734.1551