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.

Key Takeaways

  • File an uncontested divorce if possible, so that both parties come up with a settlement and file together; a contested divorce or default divorce is more expensive, drawn out and complicated.
  • Before approaching your spouse about a divorce or separation, consider where you'll live, what money you'll need and how shared assets will be split; also think about custody arrangements if you have children or pets.
  • Divorce is expensive, so start putting money aside early to cover all the eventual fees that come with the proceedings, not to mention the cost of potentially moving into a new home.
  • Get financial paperwork in order, both physically and digitally, before you file for divorce, and save yourself time and a headache in the long run. 
  • Hiring an attorney is essential if you think the divorce might be contested; however, you may also want to hire a lawyer even if the divorce seems to be amicable and straightforward.
  • Get yourself a P.O. box if you think you're going to be moving out of your current residence; you don't want to miss important paperwork.

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're a parent, consider how you want to handle custody and what you'd like to tell the children about the break-up.

The more you've considered and thought through ahead of the conversation, the more likely you are to get what you want.

By getting organized and planning carefully when preparing to divorce, it is possible to avoid complications, messy litigation and drawn-out proceedings.

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.

Even uncontested divorces can be heavy with paperwork, so creating a special digital file on your computer or in the cloud that houses all your information, financial and otherwise will eliminate some of the stress that comes with breaking up and splitting financial assets.

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. Have it all available both digitally and physically, so the information is easily accessible wherever you are.

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 you feel comfortable with who has a good track record with their clients.

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.

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.