Divorce doesn't have to be messy, costly or complicated if you plan for it. Decisions must be made, though there are many unknowns. But those decisions — trivial as they may seem — will have a long-lasting impact on how you live your life as a divorcee.
Know the Types of Divorces
One of the first things you'll want to learn about when considering a divorce is the different options for you and your soon-to-be ex. Assuming you've been married for more than five years and share assets and/or children, then an uncontested divorce is the one you want. That means both parties will come up with a settlement on their own and then file divorce papers together. A default divorce happens if you file for divorce, but your spouse does nothing. The other types of divorces typically come into play when one party doesn't agree with the other and involve courts, attorneys and costly legal fees.
Come Up With a Plan
Before you approach your spouse about a divorce or separation, you'll want a plan about where you'll live, how much money you'll have coming in and how much will go out. You’ll also want to take inventory of your shared financial assets including investment accounts, insurance policies and other assets like cars, boats and homes.
If you have children, now is a good time to figure out the logistics of raising them as a divorced couple. That includes working out custody and how and what you’ll tell the children about the break-up.
Start Putting Money Aside
Divorce isn’t something you can do for free. Be sure you have money to cover the attorney and other legal fees. You also want to have a cushion for the expenses associated with moving into a new home or daily living expenses. The last thing you want to do is end up in a bad financial situation and then accept a divorce settlement that doesn't fully compensate you. If you have money in the bank ahead of time, you're in a stronger position to demand what you deserve.
Open Up a P.O. Box
If you move out of the home or apartment, it’s a good idea to set up a P.O. box so you don’t miss important documents or mail, especially if you get checks in the mail or your attorney sends you time-sensitive legal documents.
Hire an Attorney
If there's a chance the divorce will be contested or you're concerned you won’t get your fair share, get an attorney involved. Even uneventful divorces should have an attorney. Divorces that drag out in the courts can get expensive, so the guidance of a good attorney is important. Before you hire one, interview at least three. You want to choose someone that you feel comfortable with and has a good track record with his or her clients.
Get Your Paperwork in Order
When it comes to getting divorced, you need to have all your financial paperwork at the ready. Photocopy deeds, insurance policies and other financial documents. You should also write down all the account numbers for banks accounts, investment accounts, retirement savings accounts and liabilities like credit cards and car loans.
Create a File for the Divorce
Even uncontested divorces can be heavy with paperwork and legal documents. Start a divorce file so you can easily access any information you need. It'll eliminate some of the stress that comes with breaking up and splitting financial assets.
The Bottom Line
Divorce is never fun, but it doesn't have to be drawn out, costly or complicated if you take the time to plan. Figure out what will happen with the home and kids, set aside money to cover financial expenses, take an inventory of the assets and open a P.O. box before you file for divorce.