Even if your separation is amicable, it’s still important to have proper documentation of the process, as well as an advocate on your side.
What to Expect During a Divorce
Most people don’t go into marriage expecting it to end in divorce, however, when a couple in the United States gets married (first marriage for each person), the statistics indicate they face a 40% chance of separation.
So, what should you do if you find yourself among that 40%?
Preparing for a Divorce
Divorce shouldn’t be about winners and losers. Instead, it needs to be about compromise and considering the needs of any children who are involved. With the help of a trusted attorney, here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself for divorce.
File the Paperwork
Divorce should never be threatened, it should only be filed. If you are serious about separating, file the appropriate paperwork to start the legal process. Otherwise, you or your spouse are just using the threat of divorce as a way to manipulate one another.
Arrange Your Assets
Whatever you own together as a couple will eventually need to be divided. Both spouses should organize paperwork that details bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, mortgages, life insurance, trusts, vehicle titles, and anything else the two share. Having everything laid out for legal and financial counsel will make it easier to determine what to do with the second home, the boat, the debt, and the expenses involving the children.
Employment and Insurance
If you’re not the primary breadwinner of the family, it may be time to get a job, or find a different one. If you’re insured via your spouse’s employment, look into available options after your divorce. It’s true that alimony and child support can offer supplemental income for a spouse after legal separation, but that money is not always consistent. In order to avoid financial instability, secure employment and insurance for yourself so you can feel financially secure after a divorce.
There are many options when it comes to where you’ll live after a divorce. Some couples decide that one parent will stay in the current home, while the other relocates. This can be especially beneficial when children are involved, as it allows them to stay in a home they know and love while other parts of their lives are changing.
For some families, however, it may not be financially feasible to maintain the family home and an additional residence for the other parent. Or, it’s not possible to afford the mortgage on two places of residence that are both big enough for when the children are staying with each respective parent.
Other obstacles when it comes to housing are when one spouse needs to leave a situation in which they do not currently feel safe. If that’s the case, it may require planning a few months in advance. If you know you need to leave your relationship, start collecting items you may need in order to move out on your own. If possible, squirrel away cash, furniture, and appliances with friends and family prior to leaving your home and spouse. You may also want to establish a Post Office Box so you can securely receive mail prior to your move.
Get those Receipts
No matter what you’re discussing in relation to your divorce, get it in writing. For everything from child custody arrangements to who has access to the vacation home, it needs to be in writing. You may be on fantastic terms with your soon-to-be-ex, but verbal agreements may come back to haunt you in the event something is disputed in the future.
What to Get in Writing During a Divorce
- Child custody agreements
- When and where the children will be picked up/dropped off
- Child support arrangements
- Alimony arrangements
- Division of assets
- Any expectations for financial obligations or parent involvement
This doesn’t mean you need to write up a legal document with these things and more notarized and signed by witnesses every time you have a request. It’s simply best practice to communicate with your spouse prior to and after your divorce via text or email. Sometimes it may need to be done through a lawyer or mediator, but that is up to your discretion. If you and your ex are able to amicably communicate with one another go ahead and hit “send” on that text or email.
Types of Child Custody
One of the biggest challenges a couple faces during divorce is child custody. Agreements are determined by a number of factors, including finances, geography, and a child’s preference. Generally, though, there are a few types of custody arrangements that are common nationwide:
- Sole Physical Custody with Equal Legal Custody
- Joint Physical Custody
- Split Custody
With the child’s (or children’s) best interest in mind, a judge and parents should come to an agreement on the most appropriate custody arrangement.
Single Parents Alone Together
Navigating the waters of single-parenting can be overwhelming at times. Expect that during and after your divorce, some of your other relationships may also change. It may be helpful to join support groups, whether virtual or in-person, to help you get to know other people going through similar situations. It can be a great way to expand your social network and learn about coping mechanisms for yourself and your children, if applicable. If you’re not sure where to turn for support groups related to divorce, you can check out the following:
- DivorceCare for Kids
- MeetUp.com Divorce Support
For local support groups, you can get in touch with your local church, search social media such as Facebook for organizations near you, or simply turn to Google and search your specific preferences (support groups for divorcees without children, support groups for parents with children, etc…)
It’s important to expect that things will not always be black and white during a divorce and that divorce terms may need to change as everyone continues to heal and move on. Just like the initial relationship (marriage), a relationship after a divorce will continue to evolve and have different needs. When that’s the case, be sure to continue to consult legal counsel, and keep open lines of communication between yourself and your former spouse. In writing, of course.