24 Tips for a Better Divorce
By: Ronald Reinstein MBA, CDFA Senior Wealth Manager The Financial Guys
The smallest things end up making the biggest difference. Therefore, if you are going through a divorce, getting good tips as you navigate through this process can save you time and money. Not to mention grief and aggravation.
Some of the best divorce tips are likely to come from divorce professionals. However, getting their advice costs money.
When you are paying an attorney $300 an hour my advice. Ask very specific questions to get very specific advice.
To help you out, I put together a list of 24 tips to help you navigate through your divorce with less pain and problems.
This one is on the house.
1. Try and stay out of court.
Any urge that you may have to tell the judge your story as to why you are in front of them, please resist. In other words, do you want a total stranger deciding what will happen to your kids, your finances and your future? Unless there is absolutely no choice, settle your case outside of court.
2. Form your professional team.
Tips 3-6 will help explain the three important members of your team and their roles and responsibilities.
3. Get a therapist.
Going through a divorce, you will be making a lot of decisions. Decisions that will affect your life and your children for years to come. Your emotions will be all over the place and now you will need to make life altering decisions on top of it. Working with a therapist will help you identify, understand, and deal with the emotions you are feeling so you are able to think more clearly.
4. There are different ways to handle a divorce proceeding. Decide HOW you want to divorce first. THEN hire a divorce lawyer.
If you want to use mediation to handle your divorce, and you hire a shark divorce attorney. Mediation will probably fail. Should the divorce end up in litigation because your spouse is being a jerk and refusing to agree to a settlement and your attorney is more comfortable in a conference room than a court room. This will probably not produce the outcome that you are looking for. Decide what process you want to use (and or foresee how this may play out from your spouse’s past and current behaviors), then hire the attorney that is comfortable with that process.
5. Attorneys practice many different types of law, what does your attorneys practice focus on?
Your grade school friend that lived next door to you that practices eldercare law will not be the best choice to represent you in your divorce proceedings. Hire an attorney that is experienced in handling family law cases and is familiar with the judges and court system in your area.
6. Work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.
With all of the life changing decisions that you are facing and the potential directions that the division of the marital property may go, you need to know what the true values of these assets and liabilities mean for you! How will these numbers integrate into your new financial roadmap? The prior roadmap was built for two participants. However, the new plan is going to be built just for you. There is no deviation from the main theme of the financial roadmap as the number of participants is reduced. The new financial roadmap still needs to give you the highest probability of success of generating lifetime cash flow to meet your expenses. Think financially, not emotionally with the help of a therapist, attorney, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.
8. Take care of yourself.
Divorce is a marathon, not a 100 yard dash. So to make it through the process, take care of yourself. Eat healthy. Exercise. Get 8 hours of sleep. You feel good physically, sharper you will be mentally.
8. Pick the members of your support team.
I keep using the word team. Going through a life altering event, you want to have the best team in place. Do not try and go through your divorce alone. Have a group of friends and family who will support you and pick you up when you are really feeling down.
9. Take ownership.
Your lawyer will be working in your best interests. But this is your life! Pay attention to what is going on. Ask questions. Actively participate in your divorce if you want to get the best result.
10. Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?
If you are waiting for your spouse to apologize for his/her behavior during the marriage, please don’t hold your breath. You may never get an apology or an explanation for what went wrong and where it went wrong. Even if you get an explanation, you may be skeptical thinking there is more to it. You have two roads to choose from as you go forward. The first road will see you fight for years for a reason why the divorce happened. This road offers a low probability for happiness as the anguish still continues. or you could just let it go and move forward one day at a time.
11. Thinking that you can control your spouse.
You cannot control what your spouses do, who they associate with, how they will parent your children, or who they date. Were you able to control your spouse when you were married? What makes you think it will be different now that you are getting divorced?
12. Your children are not intermediaries.
Your children are not liaisons to deliver money or messages to your ex-spouse. The children do not need to be interrogated about what your former spouse is doing, what their new is home like, or who they may be dating. It is none of your business. It is not healthy for your children to be put in the middle of this.
13. Adhere to a set of boundaries.
You moved out of the marital residence, it is not ok to walk in at any time like how it use to be. It doesn’t matter if both of you still own the home. That space is not yours anymore.
14. Before declaring you want to stay in the house, make sure you are able to get a mortgage with a qualified lender.
DO NOT ASSUME you will be able to refinance your home until you have checked with a qualified mortgage lender first! Do this BEFORE you agree to any settlement. Getting a mortgage is not as easy as it once was. Make sure that keeping the house yourself with the taxes, utilities, maintenance, snow removal, and grass cutting now your sole responsibility is an advantageous financial decision.
15. Find a path to communicate efficiently, effectively, and non-confrontationally with your spouse in matters that involve the children.
Should any face to face conversation you have that pertains to the children turns into a fight, you need to find another way to communicate. Try text messaging. If that doesn’t work use email. Use an online program like Google’s Calendar to coordinate schedules for the children. Don’t even attempt face to face communication until both parties are able to control and keep their emotions in check.
16. Don’t hide assets.
Trying to get away with something, do so at your own peril. Should it be discovered that something that was not disclosed that should have been, your credibility in court will be completely gone. You will likely end up losing more than you ever expected to gain.
17. The time and money you anticipated spending on your divorce, at least double it.
Divorce takes longer and costs more than you think. On top of the expenses you expect to incur like legal fees and therapy bills, there are expenses you probably have not even thought of. Moving expenses and the cost to replace items your spouse got from the divorce make this list.
18. You do not agree to a settlement of your case until YOU have done a post-divorce budget.
After all, attorneys don’t know how much cash flow you will need after your divorce is final. They are working to achieve an equal division of the marital assets and liabilities. Should your settlement and employment income not provide enough day to day cash flow, you are going to be in a financial crisis almost immediately after your divorce. This is an exercise I do with clients. We work together and build a new budget so they know what is needed day to day regarding their financial needs. Remember, household income is cut in half. The old lifestyle you were accustomed to living financially may need some revisions.
19. Don’t forget the effect taxes will have on your divorce settlement BEFORE you finalize your divorce.
Equity that you have in the house, is not the same as money in a retirement account. Need an infusion of cash? After the final judgement the money you wish to use for a cash infusion is in an IRA account and you are under the age of 59 1/2? 10% penalty right off the bat. With the new tax laws, alimony is no longer deductible to the payer. If you do not understand the tax implications and changes that result from your divorce, your settlement will be very different than the one you initially were expecting. Please consult with a tax preparer to know what the true numbers of the settlement will mean to you.
20. Actions speak louder than words.
Take the high road. It does not matter what your spouse did, said, slept with, or is always just miserable. Don’t do something to inflict pain as restitution for the pain that he/she caused you. After all, the universe has a unique way of working. At some point actions that go around, will come back around. Be the bigger person.
21. Don’t put the blinders up because of a new romantic relationship.
It is not a prudent idea to give up your rights to money, property, or support from your spouse based upon your new relationship. There are no guarantees that your new relationship will last (remember you once thought that your marriage would last forever). Don’t shortchange yourself in your divorce because you are betting on financial stability with a new love.
22. Watch your kid’s actions during and after the divorce, not just what they say.
A lot of the time, kids will tell you what you want to hear. They may not want to burden you with their feelings, especially if they see that you are already in pain. If your kids suddenly start doing poorly in school or start acting out pay attention! Your child’s behavior will give you a clue to what is really going on with them.
23. Get your maiden name back.
Changing your last name outside of divorce takes months to do, will cost you hundreds of dollars in court fees and even more in legal fees. However, changing your name in a divorce is easy and free, use it to your advantage.
24. Remember, that the day your judgement is signed it does not mean the divorce is over.
If your divorce judgement requires the division of retirement accounts, refinancing the house, taking your ex-spouse’s name off credit cards, this does not automatically happen once a judge signs off on your property settlement agreement. There are remaining steps that you will have to make (some are in conjunction with your attorney) to get the assets and liabilities divided according to the judgement. I understand you want to put the divorce behind you but there is one last hurdle to get over before it is done. Don’t delay on conquering this last hurdle.
BONUS TIP: So you do not miss anything, use the complimentary divorce checklist I have put together. Click the button below to receive an email with your FREE Divorce Checklist.