50 Things to Know When Filing for Divorce
The divorce process is something that you can’t really be fully prepared for unless you’ve experienced it before or you work in the legal field. It is always important to enter a divorce scenario with your eyes wide open in regards to the personal, financial and family-related aspects involved. Here’s a look at the 50 things you should keep in mind as you take those first steps toward filing for divorce.
Emotions Can Lead to Bad Decisions
It’s difficult to distance your emotions from your decisions when going through a divorce. However, taking actions out of spite instead of what’s in the best interest of everyone involved can create a big mess. Listening to your lawyer when it comes to taking rational steps is a good idea if you want to avoid a tit-for-tat scenario that drags out the divorce process and costs everyone more money.
Everything is on the Table
Many people mistakenly believe that certain assets can’t be claimed by a spouse during a divorce. The reality is that you need to be prepared for the fact that the person you’re divorcing can try to go after everything if they feel inclined to. This can include everything from royalties you’ve earned from past works or miles you’ve accumulated from flying with one airline.
Timing is Everything
Many people feel motivated to rush to file for divorce because they want to move on and get a fresh start. However, this can be a mistake from a financial standpoint. Many states base property division on the date of marriage separation. This means that you should work your plans around any anticipated spikes in property value or assets.
Don’t Be Relaxed About Paying Fees
Failing to pay court-ordered attorney fees can create a real headache. Courts often order one spouse to cover some or all of the legal fees of another spouse. The judge can choose to throw you in jail if you don’t comply with paying.
You’ll Have to Be a Financial Detective
You don’t just have to keep an eye on your own finances during a divorce or separation. It may also be necessary to keep an eye on what your spouse is doing. Things like new lines of credit or loans will need to be discussed during the divorce discovery process.
You’ll Probably Need to Gather Evidence
The months leading up to filing for divorce can be difficult because you may need to begin gathering evidence for your case. This can include taking photographs, collecting phone numbers and making copies of financial statements. Being prepared with information can help the process of filing go smoothly on your end.
Property Is a Big Deal
Do you know how much the home you share with your spouse is worth? You should if you’re thinking of filing for divorce. Knowing the value of your property and other assets will help you to get a fair deal in the divorce settlement.
Being Sneaky Can Come Back to Haunt You
It can be tempting to try to hide assets if you know a divorce is coming. However, attempting to hide assets could mean that you’re breaking the law. In addition, you can lose credibility in court if it is revealed that you’ve been sneaky when it comes to hiding assets from your spouse and the court.
There’s a Silver Lining to Paying Alimony
Alimony is definitely one of the words that people going through divorce dislike the most. However, it’s not all bad if you’re stuck paying your former spouse each month. Alimony payments can actually be written off as tax deductions.
Alimony Must Be Reported
Former spouses who receive alimony are under a legal obligation to report it on their taxes. Alimony counts as taxable income. However, child support is not considered taxable.
You’re Probably Going to Need Some Professional Tax Guidance
You could end up with hidden tax obligations following a divorce if you’re not careful. Spouses who receive real estate, stocks or bonds need to understand their potential tax obligations. Tax obligations for gains should be spelled out clearly in a divorce settlement to avoid unexpected surprises down the road.
Being in the Dark About Bills Is a Bad Idea
It’s not uncommon for one person in a marriage to handle paying bills and managing household finances. However, this can place the other spouse in a bad spot in the case of a divorce. Being unaware of how your household finances work can put you at a serious disadvantage when it comes to negotiating during the divorce process.
There Are Some Expectations for Non-Working Spouses
Many people are surprised to discover that the court has expectations for spouses who are not employed. In fact, nobody should hang their hat on the fact that they will receive spousal support. Some courts expect a spouse to be working if their children are of schooling age and they are not disabled. It might be a good idea to get some job skills or update your resume to prove to the court that you’re looking for employment.
There Are Other Options
You may not like the idea of going through a long divorce process that will bring out arguments and emotions. Some people skip the court and work with a mediator. This option can cut costs, keep things private and potentially leave you and your spouse on better terms when all is said and done.
It’s Okay to Ask for More During Mediation
What if you follow the route of seeking mediation instead of going through the court? You don’t have to agree to the first settlement that is proposed. Don’t be afraid to sit on a draft for a few days and come back with some changes.
You Might Need a Private Investigator
Just the thought of hiring a private investigator makes some people feel slimy. However, the reality is that you really should follow your lawyer’s advice when it comes to this one. A private investigator is sometimes the only way to obtain detailed information about your spouse that can be used in court.
You Can Shop Around for Lawyers
Don’t assume that the most expensive lawyer is the best. You should meet with several different lawyers before settling on one. Choosing a law firm that doesn’t have a top-tier hourly wage could help you to save money during the expensive process of going through a divorce.
Your Partner’s Debt Isn’t Always Your Debt
Debt obligations are widely misunderstood. Some people assume that they will be stuck with a partner’s debt after divorce when that isn’t actually the case. Find out the rules in your state before coming up with a plan for addressing any debts that you’ll be responsible for.
Some Financial Cleanup Will Be Required
Years of automatically designating your spouse as your beneficiary for life insurance policies and other things means that you’ll need to do some reorganizing. Benefits could end up being paid to a former spouse even if you remarry if you don’t change your designation. You should go through the paperwork for every policy you hold as soon as your divorce is final.
You Should Be Able to Name Your Biggest Asset
Can you name your biggest asset? Most people would say that their biggest asset is their house. However, it could be your retirement account, your savings or some stocks you invested in years ago. You can’t be prepared to negotiate if you don’t know where all of your assets rank.
Rethink What You’re Asking for in a Divorce Settlement
What you see is not always what you get when it comes to what you walk away with following a divorce. Getting the most out of your divorce won’t always work to your advantage when you factor in tax obligations. In fact, spouses with higher incomes may be disqualified from important tax deductions when they get the things they’ve requested during a settlement.
Parenting Agreements Require Serious Consideration
In addition to all of the emotional obligations that go along with working out a parenting agreement, finances must be considered. Negotiating over who will claim a child as a dependent can be difficult. It is common to add a stipulation stating that the right to claim a child as a dependent is based on a parent’s ability to stay current when it comes to child support payments.
You Need to Have a Plan for the Future
It can be easy to get so caught up in living through the divorce process that you forget to plan for your financial future once the divorce is over. Working with a financial planner can offer some real benefits. This is especially true if you prefer a different style of investing than what was in place when you collaborated with your former spouse.
Keeping Records Is Key
You need to have a paper trail that can be presented in court when necessary. This is especially true when it comes to preserving assets that you feel are not divisible. Having proper documentation could be the difference between holding on to an asset and splitting it with your former spouse.
Dividing Property Isn’t That Simple
You may think that splitting any property you own is a simple process. However, splitting up the property that you’ve shared during marriage is a three-step process. Properties must be assessed, assigned values and then divided.
Where You Live Determines How Property Is Divided
State law is used to determine how property is divided. Your property will either fall under the category of community property or equitable distribution. Both spouses own income and assets equally when it comes to community property. Equitable distribution is a little trickier because it involves deciding how to fairly divide up property.
Retirement Accounts Have Their Own Rules in a Divorce
The numerical value of your retirement account won’t apply during a divorce. Taxes that will be owed in the future must be taken into account. That means that most retirement accounts are worth less than people think when it comes to a divorce settlement.
Your Experience Will Be Easier in Some States
Some states are known for offering easier divorce experiences than others. States like Alaska, Iowa, Wyoming, Washington and South Dakota are known for having some of the easiest divorce laws. This means that people in those states experience lower fees and faster processing times.
Your Experience Will Be More Difficult in Some States
Some states are known for having tougher divorce laws. Arkansas, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey and South Carolina top the list of the places where getting a divorce is tough. People in these states can expect much longer processing times than people throughout the rest of the country.
You Will Probably Need More Than Just a Lawyer
Most people become very focused on finding a good lawyer when they are ready to file for divorce. However, a lawyer isn’t the only type of professional you might want to seek the help of leading up to a divorce. Most people will need the help of a financial planner or specialist to avoid making mistakes that will impact them negatively for years to come.
Being Combative Isn’t Always the Best Option
Compromise is truly your friend during the divorce process. While it may be temping to stand your ground at every turn, this isn’t always the best policy for getting what you want. Compromising on some issues can actually help to ensure that you are able to get the things that really matter to you when all is said and done.
You’re Going to Need to Think About Health Insurance
Don’t forget to look into what your obligations are regarding health insurance while going through a divorce. The law might dictate that you need to provide health coverage to your former spouse in some situations. This means that you should look around for affordable ways to keep everyone covered.
Take Care of Yourself
A divorce can be stressful for your mind and body. It is important to retain some sense of normalcy while going through the process. This means keeping up with regular visits to the gym and eating healthy during times when the stress of the divorce makes it tempting to abandon normal routines.
You Might Need to Plan Big Purchases
Do you need a new car? Are you thinking of taking some money out of your savings to do some improvements around the house? You might want to hurry up and make big purchases before you file for divorce. Most states issue what amount to financial restraining orders once a divorce petition is filed. This means you could be prevented from making big purchases once the ball is rolling on your divorce.
Don’t Be Hasty
Filing for divorce hastily can make it difficult to do the prep work you need to do. You’ll need to collect all of the necessary paperwork regarding assets and other important details before filing. Creating a contentious environment prior to filing will only make it more difficult to obtain access to the information you need.
Decide What’s Important to You
What are the things that you simply can’t walk away from in a divorce? This could be a home, a car or some other asset that is important to you. Knowing what you aren’t willing to give up can help you negotiate a little more wisely when the time comes to start making compromises.
Be Realistic About Your Living Expenses
Far too many people underestimate how much it actually costs to maintain a lifestyle prior to filing for divorce. You should spend a few months really taking account of what your monthly living expenses are. Things like mortgage costs, utility costs and other key expenses should all be used to come up with a reasonable estimate of the amount you need to live on each month.
Really Think About What You Want to Do With Your Home
The home that a family has lived in can become a hot topic during a divorce. Should you continue to live in the family home after a divorce? Should you put it on the market as soon as possible? It’s important to take the emotional aspect out of your decision and only focus on making the choice that leaves you in the best place from a financial standpoint.
Dress to Impress in Court
The way you present yourself in court will have an affect on the outcome of your case. Be sure to dress in a professional manner when you need to visit the court during your divorce. You should avoid wearing anything that looks too flashy. Simple and subdued clothing that appears neat is appropriate.
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help
Divorce is stressful. While the time for receiving therapy as a couple has passed, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk with a professional about how you plan to move on and thrive following the experience. Having a clear head can help you to let go of anger and make better decisions during the divorce process.
Retaining Normalcy Is Important When Children Are Involved
It’s important for both spouses to do their best to retain as much normalcy as possible during a divorce if kids are involved. This means keeping kids in the same activities whenever possible. This may mean that other sacrifices will need to be made in order to afford sports, music lessons and other activities when finances change because of a divorce.
You’ll Need to Be Vigilant for Years to Come
It’s important to continue to be vigilant about your finances once your divorce is finalized. Keep an eye out for any new accounts or activity on existing accounts that your former spouse may be responsible for. Some spouses may try to take advantage of accounts that have been overlooked once a divorce is over.
Decide How You Want to Handle Any Name Changes
Some people choose to keep the last name of their former spouse. Others switch back immediately. It’s important to decide how you’d like to address the name issue right away and begin revising accounts or opening new accounts in your new name to avoid confusion.
A Tag Sale Can Be Financially Wise and Therapeutic
Many people are left with a home full of memories that they would like to move on from. Even something as simple as a toaster can bring up bad feelings once a divorce is complete. Throwing a tag sale is a great way to get rid of old things and earn some money that can be used toward a fresh start. However, items should only be sold once a divorce is official and you have full ownership of the items you want to sell.
Find Out What’s Reasonable
You may not have any point of reference for what to expect when it comes to the outcome of a divorce. Speaking with other people who have been divorced or participating on online forums that deal with divorce can help you to understand what to expect. Knowing how to properly manage your expectations can help to eliminate any big surprises in the courtroom.
You Need to Complete Every Step
There are many steps in the divorce process. Many people walk away from the process without actually successfully completing every step. It’s important to make sure your divorce is completely legal once all of your paperwork has been submitted.
Be Upfront With Your Attorney
Your attorney should know everything that’s happening. Trying to make moves behind your attorney’s back can only lead to problems. Being transparent about situations that you find embarrassing or matters that could complicate your case is important.
Picture Yourself in Five Years
Don’t make decisions based on how you feel today when it comes to your divorce. You should make decisions with your eyes on what you expect to be doing five years from now. Focusing on what’s best for your finances and peace of mind in the long run can help you to avoid getting caught up in making petty decisions today.
Set Parameters With Your Attorney
Attorney fees can get out of hand pretty quickly during a lengthy divorce. This is why setting some parameters for the actions you want your attorney to take is important. Ask to be informed about everything that is filed with the court and every step that is taken if you want to keep track of fees.
Free Legal Advice Is Available
You shouldn’t have to be billed from the second you first meet with a divorce attorney. Most attorneys offer free consultations that allow you to receive basic information regarding your rights and options. Taking advantage of these consultations can give you a good idea of where you stand and what you can expect.