If you are reading this article, you probably have a long list of reasons to divorce. They are all perfectly valid reasons; but, this article is suggesting that you press pause to thoughtfully consider the following questions:
Am I ready to end my marriage?
What does life look like if I decide to divorce?
How will this decision affect our children?
Filing for divorce is one of the most difficult and personal decisions you will make, and these are important questions you should be asking yourself. Not only does this decision affect your future, but it changes the trajectory of your spouse’s life (and the lives of your children if you are a parent).
Here are considerations to help you decide if divorcing is the right option for you and your family:
Are You Sure You Want a Divorce?
The first person you should be having a conversation with about divorce is yourself.
How serious are you about divorcing? Before you mention anything to your spouse, consider what has happened to lead you down this path. Are your problems possible to work through or not? What are the pros and cons of staying in your marriage?
If you keep ending your discussion with yourself with “Yes, I no longer want to live like this and want a divorce,” plan on how you would like to broach the subject with your spouse.
Tip: Write down what you would like to say, but do not act on anything right away. If you and/or your children are not in imminent danger, step back, cool down, sleep on it, and re-read; rinse and repeat a few times. Taking the time to process your thoughts and emotions will either help you realize it should not be shared and that you don’t want to divorce, or it will reinforce that divorcing is the right decision for you.
Timing Is Everything
If you do decide to divorce, particularly when kids are involved, look dispassionately at their life circumstances in the upcoming year. Realistically, a contested divorce will take at least six months to a year from filing your case to settling your case or going to trial. Sometimes longer. An uncontested divorce on the other hand can be accomplished in a matter of weeks.
Back to timing
Step in your child’s shoes:
Has your freshman just landed their first role in the school play? Is this the first year of kindergarten at a new school for your little one?
While kids are never going to be excited about their parents splitting, their parents being sensitive to the timing of when they divorce can go a long way in everyone accepting their new normal more quickly.
Other life events that may affect timing:
- Job loss
- Poor health, is your healthcare covered by you or your spouse? If your spouse is, will you be able to afford your premiums?
- Close to qualifying for military benefits (long-term marriages)
Except for emergencies where filing straight away is necessary to protect you and/or your children from imminent harm, you have some control over when you file your case.
Gather important information
You may feel compelled to file for divorce as soon as possible, but you have some homework to do. Yes, HOMEWORK.
Tip: You need to gather years of financial information about your:
- Assets (real estate, vehicles, timeshares, businesses)
- Liabilities (debts such as credit cards, car loans, and student loans)
- Mortgage payments
- Retirement accounts
- Bank statements
- Salary/paystubs as well as your spouse’s
- Investment accounts
- Health Insurance
While this information gathering will be tedious and sometimes burdensome, it is better for all involved if you know exactly what your financial situation is.
Your lawyer will need hard numbers to project your post-divorce life and brainstorm realistic terms for negotiation and providing that upfront will save you time and money.
The more information you can obtain before filing for divorce, the better. Once filed, this information typically becomes more difficult and more expensive to obtain. It is incredibly more expensive for the divorce attorney or financial expert to dig through back tax returns and receipts to put the financial puzzle together for you.
Once your spouse knows you are filing, assume they will waste no time jumping into their own data-collecting. If one spouse knows much more about the financial estate than the other spouse, this disparity can give rise to issues such as hiding, transferring, or moving assets without the other spouse’s knowledge during a divorce.
The more knowledge about the financial estate you have before filing, the more protected you are from these potentially tricky financial maneuvers.
Check your credit
- Are there two names on the mortgage or one?
- Do you have joint checking and savings, or do you have separate accounts?
- How many credit cards are in your name?
- What do you owe on your house?
Do yourself a favor and run a credit report under your name: what debt is in your name will show up there. You can go to annualcreditreport.com and request a free annual credit report. Also, check your income and property taxes.
The IRS is an unstoppable force: make sure you are aware of any outstanding tax liability with the IRS so that can be addressed in the divorce process.
Prioritize Understanding Your Financial Future
Be honest with yourself. If you have been the spouse in the dark regarding finances, do not beat yourself up about it, but do recognize the fact that this can make you more vulnerable early in the divorce process. Then, take the steps necessary to change it.
It is important to get to know your finances because it is up to you to project honestly and realistically into your financial future. You may have to sell your house and move from a home to an apartment or rental house, and with that, you’ll be on your own to pay insurance, utilities, and all the other hidden costs. If you and your spouse have been living from month to month on your joint income, research the rental housing market to be aware of the cost of living post-divorce. The rental rates have increased dramatically in the greater Huntsville metroplex.
- Has one of you been at home with the kids and will now likely return to work?
- Will you need to work less with added kid responsibility?
Tip: You must prepare yourself: Make a budget.
To know what your goals are you must know what you own and owe.
The reality of divorce is that your financial lifestyle is likely going to change. The trick is to accept that as quickly as workable so that moving forward is possible.
Divorce is not a quick process, and you should take your time to decide. People who have not considered these issues oftentimes regret filing their case because they had unrealistic financial outcomes despite efforts by the attorney to give a more realistic projection.
Many people who consider divorce do not always end up not going through with it, and no matter what your decision is, it is important not to hold onto any guilt for looking into your options. It may be painful to go through the motions of your day-to-day life knowing that you are making this decision but handling the process with care is crucial for everyone involved.
Even if you know that filing for divorce is right for you, it does not make the reality of the situation any easier. For guidance on how to move forward with the divorce process, speak to one of Leigh Daniel & Associate’s experienced family law attorneys.