Follow these steps to help ease the financial transition in a divorce.
Divorce is one of those situations that comes highly charged with emotion. Let’s face it. It, can get downright volatile. A separation can be emotionally and financially grueling for all parties involved, no matter what the reason or grounds are.
Here are some basic steps you can take at inception to better negotiate a settlement, save time and certainly save money:
Clear your head.
In order to move forward and make sound legal, financial and family decisions, it’s important to be in the right state of mind. Divorce is no walk in the park.
Take a step back, you have the right to grieve. Everyone has a different time frame to heal and it’s certainly not easy, but try to work through the grieving process and move forward with a clearer head. Get support to help you heal and prepare you for the process if you need it. It may be a worthwhile investment in yourself.
When you are ready to communicate and negotiate with your spouse, try to treat the process of the divorce as ‘business’ as much as possible. Make decisions that are in you and your children’s best interest. Your financial future could depend on it.
Map out job prospects early.
A family that has one spouse working full time and the other spouse working by raising the kids at home is a great tradition. It also is one of the most challenging paradigms in a divorce. The ‘stay at home’ spouse usually receives alimony for only a fraction of the years that they were married. The stay at home spouse is expected to enter (or re-enter) the workforce at some point.
The challenge is that quite often, the stay at home spouse has experienced some form of ‘external career bliss’ – not being up to date on skills needed in today’s external workforce. This creates complications in transitioning and requires planning and training to properly adjust into ‘workforce mode’.
For these situations, planning and getting an early grasp of both potential career options and logistic needs of the kids, should be done as soon as possible. It will be important to understand how your skills match what job opportunities are out there, sooner than later. The sharing ‘gig’ economy is opening more doors for people to work remotely, but you must do your homework here. The more time you invest in career and job searching, the more career choices may be available to you.
Make logical financial decisions.
Divorce is expensive, very expensive.
So, whether splitting assets in a community property state or an equitable distribution state, it’s important that both spouses try to work through some high level decisions together.
By reaching at least some financial common ground before meeting with attorneys or mediators, the spouses will mitigate the number of legal ‘turns’ in the agreement, thereby saving a significant amount in legal communication and fees.
Some main topics that should be discussed together, or with a financial pro before the attorneys start to draft an initial stipulation agreement include:
- Asset Distribution – Can you both really afford the expense of maintaining the existing home?
- Shared expenses – How will child support and miscellaneous support be shared?
- Alimony – Is a lump sum better than a series of payments? Any tax issues?
- Retirement –Keeping retirement fund in exchange for lower alimony payments?
- College savings – Who will be custodian of the college savings accounts?
A peaceful, fair settlement is easier to achieve when both parties work together. This is not the time to act blinded by feelings of anger, revenge or betrayal. There will be time before, and after to work through those feelings. The result of going through a divorce process in such an emotional manner will only mean more money for attorneys and mediators, and less for you and your family.
Yes, the divorce process is painful and draining in many ways. However, setting aside emotional based decisions when it counts – will be a reward to you in saved time, money and further heartache. Remember, the human spirit is resilient and can withstand more than what is imaginable.
“This too shall pass.”
*This article was originally written and posted for Smartparent.com
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