Few experiences are as frustrating and emotionally exhausting as going through a divorce. As you part ways with the spouse, you’re forced to consider issues involving child custody, spousal support, and the division or property. You’ll need to cancel jointly-held accounts and make changes to your insurance policies. Meanwhile, your friends and family members, many of whom have never gone through a divorce, will offer unsolicited advice regarding what you should do.
To be sure, getting divorced can be a trying experience. The more you can do to make the process as smooth as possible, the better. The good news is that you can take steps to minimize problems while you get through the ordeal. We’ll share several of those steps with you below.
#1 – Identify Issues Worth Fighting Over Upfront
The more you fight with your soon-to-be-ex spouse, the more you’ll end up paying in time and legal fees. Moreover, most of the things you’ll fight about won’t be major issues in the first place. Couples who are getting divorced tend to approach things emotionally, still wounded by the fact that their marriages failed. That emotion can trigger arguments about relatively small items, where the point becomes fighting rather than resolving conflicts.
Before you get into the settlement negotiations, make a list of the issues you consider to be high priorities in your life. These are the items you’re willing to fight over. Commit yourself to letting everything else go.
#2 – List Your Assets And Debts
One of the main tasks you and your spouse will need to address is how to split the property and debt you both accrued during your marriage. The only way to do so accurately and fairly is by starting with a list of all such items.
First, make a record of your assets. List your home, vehicles, and investments. Note your savings and checking accounts as well as bonds, certificates of deposit, and money market funds. If you and your spouse own a business, add that ownership – full or a percentage – to the list.
Next, write down your debts. Include your credit card balances, outstanding mortgage loan, car loans, and any other financial obligations. If you and your spouse own past taxes, make a note of the amount.
When the time comes to begin dividing your assets and debts, your list will become invaluable. You’ll be able to refer to it quickly rather than relying upon your memory.
#3 – Take Your Time When Agreeing On A Settlement
This is not to suggest you should drag your heels while negotiating a settlement agreement. Rather, take care to avoid being rushed into one. Spend some time thinking about what you would like to accomplish from the settlement. For example, is there a particular item, such as a family heirloom, you would like to keep? Would you be willing to give up a greater portion of property in order to secure flexible custody or visitation rights with your children?
There’s a natural tendency to want to hurry the divorce process since it is usually unpleasant. But realize that rushing is likely to lead to mistakes and missed opportunities. Slow down, consult an attorney, and make sure you approach the negotiations with a clear grasp of your goals.
#4 – Disregard Advice From Friends And Family
As mentioned previously, your friends and family members are going to offer you advice. Some of them will be convinced they know what is best for you, and will “helpfully” give you counsel to that end. Others will simply want to air their opinions, believing that doing so will be, in some way, therapeutic for you. Very little of the advice will actually prove useful.
You are the only person who can truly decide what is in your best interests. Meanwhile, your attorney is well-suited to provide critical legal insight regarding the divorce laws and family laws in your state. Although your friends and family members will usually have your best interests in mind, it is advisable to disregard their advice, especially when it involves legal matters.
Every divorce is unique and poses challenges that require patience. But you can take steps to reduce the number of problems that surface along the way. Start with the four suggestions above.