Preparing for divorce starts with acceptance, awareness, and detachment from material things, past ideas, and people’s comments. Then you prepare financially. In this four-part series, we will focus on a realistic view of what happens financially and what one can expect before, during, and after divorce.
A marriage that ends in divorce has already gone through several stages. In the first stage, which I call “pre-contemplation,” there's still hope that the marriage will turn around. Sometimes the couple is in denial, pretending not to see the problems in the marriage.
During the “contemplation” stage, they may find themselves obsessing over the idea of being divorced. Those thoughts can fluctuate from positive to negative.
Then they reach the “preparation” stage, in which obsessive thoughts turn into plans and strategies.
As those plans and strategies come together, the “action” stage begins. And finally, you keep the ball rolling by starting the “maintenance” stage.
One of my clients began planning 18 months before she actually filed for divorce. She'd already accepted that the marriage had failed. As such, she was determined to minimize the damage that it would do to her finances, her wellbeing, and her children’s mental and emotional health.
Divorce can be expensive. And it isn't easy to predict exactly how lengthy or costly it will become, which makes it difficult to create a budget. The number of assets and the couple’s willingness to let go will determine how long the process will last. Greed and fear can govern these decisions. Handling these emotions early on is part of the mental preparation that accompanies the financial groundwork.
Make a list of what is truly important. That is the first step in preparing for divorce.
You cannot control the other person, so focus on controlling the controllable – yourself. Gaining clarity in the early stages will keep the desired control while others are losing control.
1. Count What You Have
If you didn’t make a prenuptial agreement, you may have an opportunity to get what you want. Make a list of important assets. Include people, things, ideas, and activities. Once the list is complete, prioritize it. Prioritizing the list is important because it makes determining what to keep and what to give up easier once negotiations start.
2. Determine What You Need
Next, make a list of the things you need. This list is very important because these are the things that will aid in survival in the third phase of divorce. Determine what you need financially to make it through without a partner.
My client, for example, was a stay-at-home mom. She determined she needed an income, paid private-school tuition for her children, a home, a car, a good credit score, and no debt.
3. Put Your Plans Into Practice
After making her list, my client spent the next 18 months getting a part-time income stream that she could later turn full-time. She paid off her car loan and all the credit cards that were in her name; and a few weeks before she filed, she removed herself from the cards that she was unable to pay down. She saved up enough money for a security deposit and two months' rent. And she planned to have her attorney ask the judge to order her husband to continue to pay for private school for the children.
She even opened a separate savings account, set it up with online statements, and began shopping for attorneys and therapists. These things would give her the peace of mind she needed to make it through the divorce. My client took my “Money Mentality Quiz” to understand her attitude towards money as she worked to adjust it.
What are the most important assets? What do you need to survive? What can you actually control?
Answering these questions will help you to prepare for divorce early on, before you find yourself in the middle of it.
Going through a divorce is crushing. The only way to make it through successfully is to do financial and personal empowerment work throughout the process.
This is the first in a four-part series by Kiné Corder that will appear every Wednesday during the month of June. The next articles in this series will discuss financial family planning; the different ways to get divorced (and the cost involved); and protecting credit, assets, and personal values.