5 Actions to Take Right Now When Planning for Divorce
When you experience the unexpected loss of a marriage or are thinking about ending a marriage, it can feel like all of a sudden you've been blindsided and the rug has been pulled out from under your feet. At the same time, it can feel overwhelming and scary if you don't know where to look for answers to the steady stream of questions whirling around in your mind.
You can, however, face and overcome your fears by taking these 5 steps right now:
Make your mental and emotional health your number one priority
It is essential that you see excellent mental health professionals. If you don't have someone in mind, you simply have to take matters into your own hands and commit yourself to find the best of the best. You deserve it.
I know that the lack of a clear path can be overwhelming, especially when you have immediate pressing concerns, like taking care of your children and going to work each day. I urge you to make this a top priority. It's like when you're in an airplane and the flight attendants tell you in case of an emergency to place the oxygen mask over yourself first before tending to your children. It's extremely difficult (not to mention stressful!) to tend to others when you are not in a good place emotionally.
Knowledge is power. Read anything you can about divorce and the emotional process that you're going through. At that time people should work with lawyers to get prepared more. If anything, you will most likely feel better when you can validate what you're feeling.
One book that I often recommend to clients is "Crazy Time" by Abigail Trafford. It describes the divorce process and walks you through the stages of grief. There are also many books on talking to children about divorce and separation.
You should also make sure you have a really good certified financial planner, tax advisor, and if necessary, a tax and estate planning attorney and any others who may be needed. You can obtain references from your attorney, trusted friends, colleagues, and family.
Make a Plan
Make a list of what is most important to you. Protecting your children? Financial independence? Both? What else? Write down what goals would be ideal for you to achieve. Then, make a list of the resources you will need to consult to get additional information.
Gather documentation regarding your finances
You should immediately gather as much information as possible to get a complete understanding of your financial circumstances, including your income and expenses.
Ideally, you should obtain for at least the past 6 months the following: bank account statements, statements concerning your retirement accounts (IRA, 401k, pensions, annuities), stocks and brokerage account statements, deeds and mortgage documents, car insurance, and loan documents, paystubs, bonus and commission statements, federal and state income tax returns for at least the last 3 years, credit card statements and loan documentation, medical insurance, and life insurance documentation, business records, and ledgers, list of monthly expenses for utilities and specific household expenses in budget format (such as Excel spreadsheet).
Get good solid legal advice
Any attorney you consult should practice exclusively in family and matrimonial matters. Make sure the attorney explains to you the different processes by which you can get divorced, traditional litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, arbitration. Before you meet with an attorney, you should view his or her website and research how each divorce process works so that you can better decide which feels right for you.
You will now be on your way to creating a new life for yourself and your children by making informed choices that will enable you to achieve your most valuable goals for the future.