When you’re going through a separation and divorce, you’re bound to have a lot of questions. Even if you have read books about the subject or have seen friends and loved ones go through similar situations, you’ll still have concerns. And why not? Your circumstances are unique, which means going through a separation and divorce for you will be a little different than for someone else.
With that being said, there are some similarities that most couples share when going through a separation and divorce. Below are several topics you’ll want to keep in mind. Your goal should be to make sure that you get through the process as effectively as you can. It won’t be easy, but it doesn’t have to be all difficult, either. In fact, you may find that going through a separation and divorce is much less stressful when you have some facts and suggestions to rely on.
Repeat this often: Money spent on legal and related professionals when going through a separation and divorce is money well spent. Yes, it can be hard to swallow the fee agreement proposed by a divorce lawyer. Even if you shop around and try to negotiate with the one-quarter of all American lawyers who are self-employed, rather than at pricey firms, you’ll still pay more than you probably wish.
Still feeling like you’d rather try to muddle through on your own since it’s technically possible to avoid getting any legal assistance? Remember that trying to do everything yourself when you’re going through a separation and divorce can be very challenging. Handing the major legal stressors over to an attorney who isn’t afraid to challenge an unfair child support or alimony proposal ends up paying off in the end.
How do you find a divorce lawyer you can trust? You may want to set up initial consultations with a few attorneys in your area. See which ones you feel most comfortable with. Then, make your choice based on everything from their fee agreement to your gut instincts. If you feel like you’ve made an error along the way, you can always fire your lawyer and hire another one. That’s not something that usually happens, but as a consumer, you should always feel good about the legal professionals you choose.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t try to save some money on legal advice and counsel by working with a professional mediator. A divorce mediator is trained to help partners going through a separation and divorce to agree on all the aspects of their divorce from something as modern as pet custody to something as basic as what happens to jointly owned vehicles and furnishings.
What does it feel like to be in a room with a mediator? Generally speaking, you and your spouse will be there with the mediator and no one else. The exception might be if you each want your lawyers to be present. During your mediation sessions, the mediator will help you listen and learn. Above all else, don’t expect the mediator to take sides. That’s not the point.
It’s worth noting that some states appreciate mediation so much that they require all couples going through a separation and divorce to try mediation first. Why? When it works, which it does a lot of the time, mediation keeps the courts free of unnecessary cases. Therefore, judges and courts appreciate it when partners who are going through a separation and divorce attempt to come to agreements on their own without asking the court to pass judgments.
A big part of going through a separation and divorce is figuring out your financial standing before the divorce goes through. Understanding where you are as a married couple will help you figure out how to divvy up cash, assets, and property.
Try to keep all the items you pay for in mind as you go through this process. Many couples forget to consider their health insurance arrangements. For instance, do you get your health insurance through your husband or wife’s employer? After going through a separation and divorce, you won’t be entitled to be on the policy anymore. Therefore, you might need to find a healthcare plan to pay for out of pocket if your company doesn’t offer one that you can join. Knowing that ahead of time can save you plenty of trouble and can also help you budget for the future.
It’s important to remind yourself that going through a separation and divorce may affect your financial ability to pay for things that you once didn’t think twice about buying. Did you want to buy car accessories online that were seasonal or personalized? That might not have been a big deal before going through a separation and divorce. Afterward, you could be in a position where you don’t have the same amount of disposable “walking around money” as before.
Many people are very surprised at how much they took jointly-made money for granted. Consequently, take the time to really scrutinize your pre-divorce and post-divorce budget. Even if you receive alimony or child support payments, you may end up in a tight spot. If you think that you might be in a particularly difficult situation money-wise, you might want to start thinking about picking up an extra job. Having more income can help you ease into your new life after going through a separation and divorce. It can also stave off creditors and help you avoid challenging fiscal problems.
One of the biggest issues when you’re going through a separation and divorce as a mother or father is figuring out how you’re going to talk to your children about what’s occurring. Ironically, many youngsters aren’t shocked to hear that their parents have decided to divorce. Don’t be entirely taken aback if your kids seem like they already suspected something. Older kids and teenagers may even confront you about their suspicions before you get the opportunity to talk with them.
Make no mistake, though: You should absolutely pick a time to explain that you’re getting a divorce. If possible, try to have this discussion with your spouse there, too. Showing a unified front can make children feel less scared about what’s happening. Additionally, with both of you there, you can more appropriately answer questions your kids might ask.
Be sure you don’t just tell your kids before bedtime or when they’re going to school in the morning. Plan for the conversation to be lengthy. Of course, your children may stomp off to their bedrooms and not want to listen at all. Accept that they might not see things the same way you and your spouse do. Allow them to grieve, just as you’ll probably grieve for aspects of married life.
If your children ask about child custody arrangements, try to have some solutions in mind. If you haven’t spoken with a mediator or lawyer about child custody, take the kids’ ideas into consideration. Don’t promise anything to them, though. The last thing you want is to make promises you can’t keep. It’s best to be totally truthful without saying nasty things about their other parent.
Maybe you bought your house many decades ago and own it outright. Perhaps you purchased it much more recently. You’ll need to have a serious conversation with your spouse about what happens to it after you have divorced.
Sometimes, couples remain in their jointly owned house after their separation and even past the time their divorce is officially finalized. Why? If they can still somewhat get along, they can save a bundle by not having one of them move out. Now, this isn’t the case in all divorces. Usually, one of the partners wants to leave. Still, it could be a choice that works for you depending on how you and your spouse feel toward one another.
As you talk about your house, try to remain realistic. This can be very difficult. After all, you’ve built more than just equity in your property. You’ve also laid down the roots of deep memories. So it can be tough to think about letting go of your home or of allowing your spouse to stay there while you leave.
If you can’t come to a conclusion or always seem to end in a fight when you talk about the house, work through your lawyers to make a decision. If you figure out that you’ll need to sell your house fast, you may still want to go through surveying services if you have any property questions, such as encroachment of a neighbor. It’s best to get any legal and real estate issues out of the way before putting your house on the market.
Have you decided that it’s for the best for you to sell your house and equally share the profits? There’s nothing wrong with that kind of practical decision after going through a separation and divorce. In fact, it can make a lot of sense financially, especially if you could potentially reap tens of thousands of dollars from the sale of the home.
Of course, if you weren’t planning to sell your house, you might need to do a little work upfront. Did you constantly put off the garage door repair in the hopes that you’d get to it “sometime?” Well, “sometime” is now. A new garage door, particularly a smart home model that can be connected to WiFi and run off an app, may improve the perceived or actual value of your house.
How do you know what to invest in? Anything that could majorly turn off interested buyers, like obvious drywall or plumbing repairs, needs to be addressed. You can’t afford to just ignore issues like those if you want to get top dollar for your property. Make sure you keep the exterior of your home as aesthetically appealing as possible. Keep up with the lawn mowing and gardening, even if you’re going through a separation and divorce that’s rocky. You’ll be happy that you concentrated part of your time on home maintenance when bids start rolling in.
As a final note about selling your home, be aware that you’ll be dependent on the market. The real estate market, just like any commodities market, can and does go up and down. Hopefully, you’ll be in a seller’s market when you have to sell your home. Of course, the flip side is that you may have to pay more than you want to buy a new house. Then again, no one says you have to buy another home right away after going through a separation and divorce. You could always wait, lease an apartment, and save your income for months or a year before setting down new roots in a different neighborhood.
Be very careful about dating if you’re just going through a separation and divorce. Even if your spouse is already with someone new, you don’t have to follow suit. Actually, many therapists recommend that you wait for a while before jumping into relationships with possible partners.
Why should you hold off? First, you’re in a very emotional place. This could make you more prone to making choices you’ll regret later on. Secondly, your kids will need your attention. Give them the time and love they deserve. Secondly, you could end up getting hurt again if your new connection doesn’t pan out. Why risk another heartbreak on the heels of your marriage breaking up? Take time to figure out what you want out of future relationships and proceed slowly. Also, be aware that your ex-spouse could bring up legal issues if they don’t like the new adult in your kids’ life, so be wise with decisions involving a new romance.
In addition to talking about finances as they relate to selling your home, you’ll want to think about any behaviors or lifestyle changes on the horizon. As mentioned before, many people are shocked to find out that they don’t have nearly as much cash to buy things like custom jewelry or a wide-screen television.
This can feel like a hardship, no doubt about it. However, you need to tell yourself that it’s necessary. Would you stay in an unfulfilling marriage just to be able to hold onto your country club membership? Probably not. Therefore, it’s best that you reevaluate your spending, put yourself on a budget, and ride out your experience until you get a better handle on your money.
Going through a separation and divorce can be very challenging. The good news is that you’ll get through it with time. You must get as much information as you can upfront to prepare you for the road ahead.