Unfortunately, almost 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. And despite some similar themes that run through each one, every single divorce is unique in its own way. Over the years, our firm has seen many couples struggle mightily with divorce, so we put together a list of suggestions for people who are experiencing this type of pain in hopes that it might help.
Please know that we do not make these suggestions lightly, they have come from years of experience dealing with people going through the transition of divorce. Many of them might not work for you, especially in cases where there is abuse or addiction. Nevertheless, below are some things for you to think about – from the perspective of a financial planner first – and a friend second.
Gather Your Financial Records
We advise married clients all the time that it is critical that they both have access to all their financial records – bank statements, investment accounts, life insurance, deeds, mortgage statements, etc. But you know what? It’s usually just one of them who can easily get their hands on all that stuff. And if you’re the person that has access to everything, by all means share it with your soon-to-be ex. The information is going to come out anyway, so
don’t bother playing games.
Don’t Make Big Purchases or Sales
You’d be surprised at how many times couples who are going through a divorce decide that once the divorce papers are filed, it’s time to get that new car or new boat or go on an extravagant European vacation. This is not a good idea because these decisions may come back to haunt you when assets are divided later. And it looks terrible. So just don’t do it.
Consider Your Living Arrangements
It seems that one person ends up moving out within several weeks of divorce papers being filed. And while in some cases there should be a separation, often times couples can continue to reside in the same residence, so long as some simple ground rules are established. I have found that when it works, residing in the same house had positive outcomes, such as reconciliation, smoother divorce proceedings, and financial savings on the expense of maintaining another residence. In the instances where I saw the couple stay in the same house – he was in the basement and she was upstairs, for example – it either led to reconciliation or smoother divorce proceedings.
Make An Inventory
Go around your house room by room and list just about everything and its approximate value. Stick to the larger items and remember to approximate value – not what you paid for it. For example, in your bedroom, your inventory might include the bed, box spring and mattress, two dressers, two night stands, a rug, three pictures, two lamps and some books – don’t itemize the books. Then make an entry item for his clothes and her clothes – don’t list each piece. Make your inventory in an Excel spreadsheet and then move to the next room. This usually takes about an hour but may be very helpful when it comes time to divide your tangible assets.
When you get to the point that you’re dividing up assets – especially retirement assets –you should consider the impact of taxes. Simply put, that $100,000 IRA is not worth $100k if your spouse has to liquidate it. So while you might not have the answers or fully understand the tax implications, talk to someone who does – like your financial planner (your lawyer can probably give you high-level advice too, but they’re usually not an expert on this stuff).
Now, as your friend, I’d like you to consider the following:
Keep the Kids Out of It
This one sounds simple, but is critical to everyone’s long-term health. In an ideal world, you and your soon to be ex-spouse would sit down with your children and tell them together. Obviously, it depends on the age of your children as to how you do this. But remember, just as your kids probably don’t know your annual salary, they don’t need to know all the details of the divorce either. However, they do need to be reassured of your love for them and they don’t need to become messengers.
Find A Good Lawyer
Ask people who you know, do research and interview lawyers. It’s a tedious task, but an important one that is often overlooked. I am skeptical of flat-fee relationships, because often times they don’t work, especially in fairly complicated divorces. And remember, your lawyer is not your therapist; they are your legal advocate.
Don’t Make Big, Long-Lasting Decisions
You have a lot to think about already – where will I live, where will he/she live, where will the kids live, what happens to my will if I die, do I need to get a higher-paying job, what about health insurance, can I afford my gym membership, etc. It’s best to simplify now, so if it’s not a critical decision that must be made today, make it on a later date.
Consider Joining A Support Group.
There are undoubtedly lots of divorce support groups in your area. Usually hosted at a church, they are always welcoming new members. Ask a friend to go with you, which brings me to one of my most important recommendations that I hope you will follow, and that’s to…
Find One Really Good Friend
This is one of the most essential tools to helping you navigate your divorce. You will be talking to lots of friends and acquaintances about what’s going on and its human nature to not want to tell some people some things in order to make ourselves look better.
I urge you to find one person that you can tell everything to. It might be your best friend or it might be your sister. It might be someone you don’t know that well but are comfortable with. But having one person that you can just vent to, without fear of being judged, and without having to remember what you said to them two days ago, will put you on the path of healing.
We wish you peaceful moments and stand ready to help you in any way. For more information, visit our website at makinglifecount.com or contact Joni Lindquist –firstname.lastname@example.org, (913) 345-1881.