Deciding to divorce is a big decision. Once it has been made, proper preparation is, like with so many things in life, a key to making the outcome more likely to be positive for you and your family. And, yet, because it can be such an emotional decision, many people do not develop a plan for successfully moving through the process. This piece is designed to guide you in developing that plan.

Initially, it is important to go through this process before beginning the divorce. That is when issues can be pondered without having the pressure of a pending divorce affecting your decision-making

Step 1 Who will be your allies during this process? Divorce can be emotionally-taxing. One or both spouses may make emotional decisions that create chaos, confusion, or worse. It is easier to get through those times with allies—family members and friends who can provide support. It is also important to have people who you can talk to regularly; esp. if other family members and friends decide to not be there for you at this time. Having the support of allies help you to better weather the storms of your case.

Step 2 Do you understand the property matters? Do you have, or can you get, documentation (hard copy and/or virtual) pertaining to all debts and assets of the family? Car titles, mortgage statements, retirement and brokerage account statements, bank or credit union statements, loan applications, credit card bills, health and life insurance policies, and tax returns are all important to have. Do you know where to obtain any of those documents which you do not already have? Is there anyone who can assist you with this process? Be sure to store electronic versions of those documents in the cloud (such as via OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box), so that you can access them from anywhere that you have an internet connection

Step 3 Who provides services to the home? You should either know, or learn, the identity of the gas company, the electricity provider, and the cable or satellite provider, for the home. Are there other service providers that your family uses, such as for landscaping, lawn maintenance, or babysitting? Do you know how all of those bills are customarily paid? What about the water/trash bill for your home? Do you either have access to that information, or can you get it? In a similar vein do you know all about your family’s health insurance, toll tag, phone, and other accounts? Can you compile all of this information in a document that you can access online?

Step 4 How will you meet financial obligations during the divorce? In addition to your living expenses, there will be additional charges related just to the divorce process, itself. So, securing a means to pay those expenses allows one to continue the case, rather than perhaps being forced to settle on less-than-favorable terms because you’ve run-out of money. The court may award certain bills, support, or alimony during the case. But, that is uncertain until it happens. Funding is sometimes available by taking a loan against a retirement account; selling some securities in a brokerage account; securing one or more credit cards in your own name, and unknown to your spouse, ideally; or opening-up a line of credit with a financial institution. Also, do you have a relative who will loan you money, or who will allow you to use his or her credit card? Is there home equity available to borrow? Even if the house is owned by both of you, the court may allow that home equity to be used to pay the expenses of the case.

These are the first few considerations. We will address more of them with the next post, so check back for more useful info!

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