Divorce and Separation Planning

Right after concern for the welfare of the children, the biggest concern during and after the divorce process generally relates to the fear of the unknown financial impact.  During the divorce process, costs generally rise dramatically as the spouses often incur new outlays for legal and forensic representation, emotional counseling services, and separate housing.  This stress is very negative and often results in much more acrimony than would otherwise be present.  One spouse generally is in the position of earning more and he or she is forced to “support” the other party, at first on a temporary basis and later on a permanent basis.  The other spouse may not have access to significant financial assets and may be forced to rely on their soon to be “ex” for survival.  Regardless of the underlying causes of the marriage failure, it is natural for tremendous resentments to build up during this stage of the process.  The key in dealing with this problem is to maintain a sense of control through proper planning.  A simple internet search will produce numerous lists of recommended planning steps.  The following is list of a few important steps to take as soon as separation and divorce appear likely:

  1. Research – do your own research including searching the internet and reading some of the many available books on divorce and separation.
  2. Legal counsel – seek legal counsel, this may feel like cheating but you should do it before making any major decisions.
  3. Financial Records – gather copies of financial records including tax returns, bank, investment and credit card statements, life insurance policies, wills, and trusts.
  4. Establish a budget – review recent spending patterns and establish a budget, this will be important not only for living within your means but will be important when working out support and alimony arrangements.
  5. Inventory household and other personal property – make a list of property that you and your spouse own, document the property with photos and/or video.
  6. New accounts – open up new checking, savings and credit card accounts, in your name only, with a different bank than where your joints accounts are held.
  7. Gather/Save funds – if you do not have a regular inflow from a salary you will need to gather what funds you can to ensure that you can cover living and legal expenses after separation.  Please consult with your legal counsel before withdrawing funds from joint accounts.
  8. Mail and email – obtain your own private email account and consider opening a post office box so that you will be able to receive confidential mail.

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