Dealing with DivorceDivorce can be a lengthy process that may strain your finances and leave you feel­ing out of con­trol. But with the right prepa­ra­tion, you can pro­tect your inter­ests, take charge of your future, and save your­self time and mon­ey. You cer­tain­ly nev­er expect­ed divorce when you cut the wed­ding cake–you and your spouse planned on spend­ing the rest of your lives togeth­er. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, for many of us that hap­pi­ly ever after did­n’t quite work out as planned. So where do you begin?

First things first: should you hire an attor­ney?

There’s no legal require­ment that you hire an attor­ney when divorc­ing. In fact, 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 (lump sums) up front. The charges will depend on the com­plex­i­ty of the case, the rep­u­ta­tion and expe­ri­ence of the divorce attor­ney, 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 in the tele­phone book. 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:

  • Each spouse’s date of birth
  • Names and birth­dates of chil­dren, if you have any
  • Date and place of mar­riage and length of time in present state
  • Exis­tence of prenup­tial agree­ment
  • Infor­ma­tion about par­ties’ pri­or mar­riages, chil­dren, etc.
  • Date of sep­a­ra­tion and grounds for divorce
  • Cur­rent occu­pa­tion and name and address of employ­er for each spouse
  • Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber for each spouse
  • Income of each spouse
  • Edu­ca­tion, degrees, and train­ing of each spouse
  • Extent of employ­ee ben­e­fits for each spouse
  • Details of retire­ment plans for each spouse
  • Joint assets of the par­ties
  • Lia­bil­i­ties and debts of each spouse
  • Life (and oth­er) insur­ance of each spouse
  • Sep­a­rate or per­son­al assets of each spouse, includ­ing trust funds and inher­i­tances
  • Finan­cial records
  • Fam­i­ly busi­ness records
  • Col­lec­tions, art­work, and antiques

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

Although your divorce pro­fes­sion­al will help you work through the big issues, you might want to think about the fol­low­ing ques­tions before meet­ing with him or her:

  • 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 real­ly 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

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.

Relat­ed Posts:

A Sim­ple For­mu­la to Achieve your Goals 

7 Tips for Cre­at­ing Pros­per­i­ty

Insur­ance Needs: The Basics

Pre­pared by Broad­ridge Investor Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Solu­tions, Inc. Copy­right 2013.