Is this you? You know that the healthiest choice for you and your children is to get a divorce, but you don't believe you can afford to separate now. Of course, if you can heal your relationship in a healthy way, that may be the first choice. Just remember, if you are preparing for a divorce, it is difficult to put your heart into reconciling at the same time. If that is not possible (it takes two to make a relationship!), then read on...
I'd like to share with you some important information to consider. I call it "getting your ducks in a row". Once a divorce starts, things progress very quickly, so I encourage my clients to do as much preparation work as possible in all these areas: personal, parenting, financial, interpersonal, organizational, career, housing, and legal. Let's take these one at a time. Some of these ideas cost nothing, others require some financial investment. You may find some of these easy and others challenging. It's appropriate to ask for support in this process!
There is a lot on this list! You can take your time...months...years. You can receive help. Remember, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Assuming divorce is the healthy choice, you are working to re-create your future.
Here are some things that you can do on a personal level to prepare:
- Examine whether you are 100% behind this divorce. If not, what is the pull into the marriage for you? Is there something worth salvaging in the marriage or is it an unhealthy entanglement?
- What do you need to establish yourself as an emotionally independent person?
- Get into a strong place physically. Address health concerns with your medical provider if possible. Exercise brings numerous benefits in terms of personal empowerment, energy, relaxation, well-being and health, and can be free.
- Work on your emotional well-being, whether it's through therapy or a supportive process that you do on your own. Divorce is often an emotionally wrenching process, so to the extent that you can process the grief over the loss of the marriage, or the anger over what has occurred, you will have a smoother process.
Here are some things that you can do on a parenting level to prepare:
- Help your children in same way that you have helped yourself as described above.
- Work on making your relationship with them stronger, healthier and calmer.
- To the extent possible, try to help your spouse do the same thing. Once separated, you lose the opportunity to observe and intervene in this regard.
- If possible, try to get on the same page with your spouse on parenting issues. In general, it is helpful for the children to have similar routines at both households.
- Help your children be comfortable with flexibility in general; after a separation, they will be shuttling back and forth between two households.
- Help you children to be in touch with and appropriately verbalize their feelings.
- Become familiar with the Parenting Plan form, available at the Court's website.
- Define your goals for parenting time and decision-making (formerly called "custody) in terms of what is best for the children and what is practical.
- Avoid bad-mouthing the other parent. This does not mean tolerating dangerous or destructive behavior by the other parent.
- If you are dealing with a dysfunctional or destructive parent, begin to document this, particularly with the first-hand observations of neutral professionals.
Here are some things that you can do on a financial level to prepare:
- First and foremost, let's do a reality check on your finances. Through some careful planning and an appropriate use of divorce law, it may be more possible than you think.
- What are the marital assets? Is anything hidden? Really understand your present financial situation.
- Can the marital debt be restructured?
- What is the income and earning potential of each of you?
- What would it take for you to live separately? Make out a realistic budget. The Court requires that every person seeking a divorce fill out a "Financial Affidavit." In this form you will list your budget, assets and liabilities. Fill one out now, even if you have to amend it later.
- Often, people do have to live on less. See where you can cut back and learn to live on less in a reasonable manner. Some people choose to live in smaller houses, take fewer vacations, negotiate lower fees for services, take in a roommate. I know that this is not always a pleasant process.
Here are some things that you can do on an interpersonal level to prepare:
- Set up your support team. Do you have friends who have been through a divorce who might be sympathetic? Have several people on board so that you are not relying on just one good friend.
- Are there other parents with whom you can start to share parenting duties, such as carpooling?
- Talk to family members who might be willing to be there for you personally or financially?
- You may want to consider joining a divorce support group. This does not have to be expensive.
- Do you need to find activities you enjoy as a single person?
Here are some things that you can do on an organizational level to prepare:
- The paperwork involved in a divorce requires you to access your personal records. Do you know where to find your expenses for the last year, your personal income tax returns for the past three years, written agreements between the two of you, documents related to the purchase and financing of your home, etc?
- It is not uncommon in a divorce to have to sell your home. That means moving. You can do a pre-move organization by giving away or selling certain items.
Here are some things that you can do on a career level to prepare:
- It has become highly unusual for the Courts to recommend that the higher-earning spouse provide support for many years. I have seen the Court order the lower-earning or non-earning spouse to become self-supporting in a relative short amount of time. What do you need to do? Get licensed or certified, scout out the job market, start talking to friends, update your resume...?
- It might make sense to go back to school, if that is financially possible. Maybe you need to decide on a career path. What schools offer that training? What is the cost? Your desire and plan to obtain training so that you can become self-supporting is a relevant factor in divorce.
Here are some things that you can do on a housing level to prepare:
- If you need to sell your home, it may be sad, but it is not the end of the world. Start to emotionally detach from your home.
- In some cases, selling the home makes sense. Consider if you want to spend time and mony to make your home look attractive to buyers.
- Find a realtor you like.
- Start exploring neighborhoods that might work for you in terms of cost, convenience, neighborhoods, nearby schools, proximity to the other parent, and location of friends for both you and your children.
- Consider the costs of living there including: mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities and upkeep.
- Talk to a mortgage broker or banker and start to understand what kind of loan you would qualify for. Understand the details of the loan including any changes in the monthly amount, the fees, and the interest paid over the life of the loan.
Here are some things that you can do on a legal level to prepare:
- Learn about the possible routes through divorce, such as: not have attorneys ("pro se"), litigation, mediation, arbitration, collaborative divorce, etc.
- What are you goals? What is your ideal scenario? What is your minimum?
- Understand how your case might work in each of these models.
- What are the strengths and weakness of your case?
- Get some high quality recommendations about attorneys. (Choosing an attorney is a very important decision!)
- Visit them to have them review you case. Some do not charge for an initial consultation.
- Start to become familiar with the forms you or your attorney will need to file.
- Visit to the Court and sit in on a hearing to demystify the process.
Posted by CoParenting