If absence makes the heart grow fonder, the opposite might also be true. Many couples have had an overabundance of quality time due to the restrictions of Coronavirus.
While this time spent together has been great for some, it has pushed others overboard. In fact, many people are considering divorce. In China, divorce rates are skyrocketing in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, and we are starting to see the same trend in America.
Divorce can be a lengthy process that may strain your finances and leave you feeling out of control. With the right preparation, you can protect your interests, take charge of your future, and save yourself time and money. Because nobody can anticipate a divorce when they get married, you probably do not have a plan for how you can protect yourself as well as your investments in the case of a divorce. So, if you are considering a divorce, where do you begin?
First things first: should you hire an attorney?
There’s no legal requirement that you must hire an attorney when divorcing. Going it alone may be a sensible option if you’re young and have been married only a short time, are childless, and have few assets.
However, most divorcing couples hire attorneys to better protect their interests, even though doing so can be expensive. Divorce attorneys typically charge hourly rates and require you to submit retainers, or a lump sum, upfront. The charges will depend on the complexity of the case, the attorney’s reputation and experience, and your geographic location.
You should know that if you’re a homemaker or earn less income than your spouse, it’s still possible to obtain legal representation. You can submit a motion to the court, asking a judge to order your spouse to pay for your attorney’s fees.
If you and your spouse can agree on most issues, you may save time and money by filing an uncontested divorce. If you can’t agree on significant issues, you may want to meet with a divorce mediator, who can help you resolve issues that the two of you can’t resolve alone. To find a mediator, contact your local domestic relations court, ask friends for a referral, or look online. Certain attorneys, members of the clergy, psychologists, social workers, marriage counselors, and financial professionals may offer their services as mediators.
Save time and money by doing your homework before meeting with a divorce professional
To save time and money, compile as much of the following information as you can before meeting with an attorney or other divorce professional.
Personal information for each spouse including:
· Date of birth
· Social security number
· Place of work and income
· Information on your education and degrees
· If applicable, any information on prior marriages
Your children’s information including:
· Dates of birth
· Social security numbers
Information on your marriage including
· When and where it took place
· Your marriage certificate and other applicable documents
· How long you have been in your current state of residence
· Proof of a prenuptial agreement if you have one
· Date of separation and grounds for divorce
Your financial information including:
· Existence of employee benefits for each person
· A tax return from the previous year, whether you filed jointly or not
· Any details on retirement plans that you share or have independently
· Liabilities and assets of each spouse
· Any information on mortgages and other debts
· Any joint assets of the parties
· Any life insurance or other insurance information
· Information regarding trust funds, wills, or inheritances
· Other financial records and statements
Other important documentation including
· Any family business records
· Information regarding collections, artwork, and antiques of value
If you’re uncertain about some of these areas, you can obtain the necessary information through your spouse’s financial affidavit and/or the discovery process, both of which are mandated by the court.
Consider the big questions, such as child custody and alimony
When deciding whether to get a divorce, you should ask yourself several questions to help you save time, billable hours, and work through any big issues. You might want to discuss or think about the following questions before meeting with a divorce attorney, mitigator, or another divorce professional:
· If you have children, what are your wishes regarding custody, visitation, and child support?
· Whose health insurance plan should cover the children?
· Do you earn enough money to adequately support yourself, or should alimony be considered?
· Which assets do you want, and which are you willing to let your spouse keep?
· How do you feel about the family home? Do you feel strongly about living there, or should it be sold or allotted to your spouse?
· Will you have enough money to pay the outstanding debt on whatever assets you keep?
In addition to an attorney, you may want to see a therapist to help you clarify your wishes, express yourself more clearly, and deal with any child-related issues. Such counseling is typically covered by health insurance.
Some dos and don’ts when divorcing
A divorce is a life-altering event. You and your spouse will experience it firsthand, but you might impact your children, families, or friends as well. To maintain your mental health as well as keep your finances in order, keep the following tips in mind:
· Do prepare a budget and a financial plan to sustain you until your divorce is final. Get help if you don’t currently have the skills and energy to do this on your own.
· Do review monthly bank and financial statements and make copies for your attorney.
· Do review all tax returns that have been filed jointly or separately by your spouse.
· Do make sure all taxes have been paid to date.
· Do review the contents of any safe-deposit boxes.
· Do get emotional support for yourself–talk to friends, join a support group, or see a therapist.
· Don’t make large purchases or create additional debt that might later cause financial hardship.
· Don’t quit your job.
· Don’t move out of the house before consulting your attorney.
· Don’t transfer or give away assets that are owned jointly.
· Don’t sign a blank financial statement or any other document without reviewing it with your attorney.
The bottom line
Divorce is a stressful time in anyone’s life. While it can be very expensive and time-consuming, there are things that you can do to smooth the process. These things include communicating with your spouse to the best of your abilities, preparing documentation before going to a divorce professional, and taking care of your emotional wellbeing.
If you are unsure of how to deal with your finances moving forward and would like to speak with a certified financial planner, schedule a consult today.