Considering Divorce or Planning to File?
There are three core areas that need to be addressed as early as possible in the divorce process-- getting organized, securing finances, and building a support system. Steady traction in these areas can be a welcome remedy to overcoming feelings of anxiety and create more faith and confidence in the separation process.
When my divorce was filed, I used a comprehensive divorce checklist and gathered all the documents required for my attorney. I stored my information in multiple places - hard copies in a binder, digital copies in a secured file on my computer, and on a thumb drive. Getting my case organized was a bit of an onerous task but it made the conversations with my attorney much more productive (in other words, saved time and money). And after my divorce was finalized, having all my financial information accounted for and easily accessible helped me complete the post-divorce follow-ups much more efficiently.
In order to know what property could be up for division during divorce, it is important to have an awareness of what is going to show up on the table. From a high level, collecting the following is to be expected:
Financial statements for annual income and expenses, assets and liabilities
Bank, brokerage and credit card statements
Estate planning documents and nuptial agreements
Retirement plan and employee compensation information
Loan applications and tax returns within the last 3-5 years
All things related to any real property (deeds, contributions towards acquisition, mortgage details, purchase agreements, rental or lease agreements, appraisals, etc.)
And possibly more!
Last but not least, storing this vital information so that it is secure and readily available should not be overlooked.
Securing finances through the divorce process can be challenging especially if one spouse had little involvement in the household finances. There could also be legal implications imposed on accounts such as an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order, which prohibits certain activities on accounts and essentially freezes assets. These procedures vary by state, and while not all states “automatically” include them in the divorce petition, some do. In addition, there is no guarantee the financial institution/s will be automatically notified of the order and violations could lead to undesirable consequences.
The best course of action is to consult with an attorney about when and how to secure one’s financial position through the divorce process as the considerations are many and compliance with the particulars of the case is critical. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional can support the attorney and divorcing individuals by helping them get organized, as mentioned above and in turn use those financial records to assess a reasonable budget during the divorce process, analyze the potential settlement options, and provide guidance on financial transitions post-divorce. During the divorce process, it is usually not unreasonable to secure enough money in a new account to cover the legal expenses associated with the divorce and to reasonably maintain one’s lifestyle. Other options for covering expenses could also include using credit, or in asset-heavy, low-liquidity cases, applying for resources from a divorce-funding firm for the legal expenses.
Building a Support System
The power of a solid support system for someone divorcing should not be underestimated. This unique personal network should be able to strike a holistic balance that an individual can rely on to address various needs throughout the process. A typical support system for a person getting a divorce would likely resemble a combination of professional expertise, emotional and therapeutic support, along with catalysts for overall wellness, such as improving personal health, pursuing a new hobby, or checking off a bucket list item.
Legal and financial experts are generally at the top of the list of professionals engaged in a divorce process. These include attorneys, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professionals, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioners, tax advisors, forensic accountants and any other experts deemed necessary to support the needs of the divorce case. Too often, divorcing individuals have not heard of the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional, a divorce-specific financial professional who is not only equipped to analyze the impacts of divorce settlements but can also be a great resource to finding a family law attorney. In my eyes, the earlier a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional is engaged, the better.
While leveraging financial and legal professionals, clients should avoid using those billable hours towards emotional and therapeutic needs. It is far too easy to get caught up in those conversations and the costs will add up quickly. Instead, people getting a divorce should seek emotional and therapeutic support from those professionals equipped to help them move forward toward emotional healing, such as licensed therapists, divorce coaches, support groups, trusted mentors, and life coaches. Family and friends can be supportive as well, but it is important to recognize that unless they happen to also be a qualified expert on the matter, not to confuse their support as qualified advice…even if they have been through a divorce themselves.
Divorcees who choose to respond with ownership of their part of the process, take responsibility for their own healing, engage the necessary resources to get organized, secure their financial position, and cultivate a steadfast support system will be positioned well to recover with a revitalized sense of purpose and a renewed meaning of life.
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