Three steps to consider when preparing for divorce

The end of a relationship can be an emotional time. However, when divorce is imminent, it can be prudent to adequately prepare. Taking the time to prepare for divorce can help you develop a better understanding of what you really want out of your divorce and can help you minimize the stress you experience during your divorce. Your preparations can also provide your divorce team with all of the facts right away, so it can efficiently develop the most appropriate strategy for your situation.

Although preparing for divorce can feel overwhelming, it can be broken down into manageable steps. Three steps to help get your started include collecting documents, building an awareness of your financial situation and evaluating your expenses.

Collect important documents

You and your spouse should each have copies of important documents, so collecting and filing important documents can be one of the first steps you take as you begin preparing for divorce. When filing, try to group similar items together, so they can be easy to find. You can use any filing system you choose, as long as it makes sense to you.

Some documents you may need during your divorce, include:

  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Loans
  • Deeds
  • Pension statements
  • Social Security statements
  • Recent pay stubs
  • Income tax returns
  • Estate planning documents
  • Insurance policies

Know what you own and owe

During your divorce, marital property and marital debt will be divided equitably. To prepare for the division of property, you can make sure you have an understanding of your family’s current assets and debts.

If you have already collected your family’s important documents, it should be relatively easy to examine financial documents and begin a list of what your family owns and owes. It may also be beneficial to note on your list what assets and debts you believe are marital property versus separate property. Generally, marital property is property that you or your spouse acquired during your marriage, and separate property is property you or your spouse acquired before marriage.

Consider current and future expenses

Next, it can be valuable to assess what your family's current expenses are. Try to look at what items your family spends money on, how much money is spent and who benefits from each expense. Be sure to look beyond bills to expenses like clothes, entertainment, home maintenance and others.

When you have a handle on your family’s current expenses, consider how your financial situation might change after the divorce. For example, if you think you might rent a house after your divorce, you may need to cover rent and utility expenses on just your income. Your utility bills might be similar in price, but your rent may be cheaper than your mortgage payments and you may have no home maintenance expenses.

Taking the time to prepare for divorce may not be one of the most fun ways to spend your time. However, being prepared for divorce can help put you in a favorable position to receive the divorce outcomes that matter most to you.

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