Before you divorce, take the time to consider your current psychological and financial situations while weighing your future options, before deciding on a course of action.
I'm assuming you are either near to retirement, or already retired, since you came to my website... but this page might give you some ideas even if you aren't.
If you are thinking about divorce, maybe even in the back of your mind, yet unspoken to your spouse, think about:
Sometimes we are just sad or angry about something and the spouse gets the brunt of our emotions. A qualified counselor may be able to help you and your spouse identify the problems and work toward a mutually-satisfactory solution.
For this approach to work, both partners must be committed to working through their problems with the goal of saving the relationship.
If you are filing for divorce, take the time to get copies of bank statements, retirement accounts, 401k and IRA's, etc before you file.
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Get a grip on your retirement assets before divorce becomes real...
WHY? Just to assure that every bit of your finances is included in the divorce settlement, period. This is critical, especially for dependent wives whose husbands handled all the finances.
Some spouses have been known to empty out a joint bank account, leaving their dependent wives/husbands at the mercy of the courts or worse. This may be illegal, depending on your state or jurisdiction... but it still happens.
Copies of all your financial paperwork can help your attorney. They will subpeona records but need to know what's out there first. Where are the savings? Do you have pension plans? Are there "secret" savings out there?
Some spouses demand that you trade your interest in his or her pension for their interest in the home. Be sure you know the exact value (in writing) of both before agreeing to such a trade!
Before you divorce, you’ll need to know how much it will realistically cost to keep your household running. You may need to consider selling your property and moving to a less-expensive area, depending what the courts decide to allocate.
While the family home might LOOK like a good trade, you might be giving up a lifetime monthly pension. Please don't agree to anything until your attorney looks closely at this. Too many people divorce and agree mutually to a split, without an advisor showing you the reality of your agreement.
Just think... I might (God Willing) draw my pension for 30+ years, assuming I live a long life like my mother has. Assuming your half of the pension is $500/month, just for calculation purposes, and if you live 30 years you could collect $180,000 or more.
So you consider trading that $500 per month for a $80,000 home or $200,000 home... whatever it is. You get the cash when you sell the home and bank it. So far so good. You are living on Social Security alone (you traded the pension away) -- so you need to draw from that savings every month. When you need a new car, new frig, your adult kids need help, or aging parents -- all that comes out of this one savings account you have. Maybe the market fails, where is your money invested?
Just saying, don't do it until you really think it all out. Put pen to paper and play out different scenarios. Do the work. This is your life.
Be sure you hire a divorce attorney. Just like doctors, attorneys specialize and although they can act under many different types of law, it's really best to hire someone who knows divorce. They also know many of the family court judges, referees, and court workers too.
If you don’t know of an attorney, your local bar association should be able to make qualified referrals. Friends from church or other social groups may be able to recommend someone... but just because someone's cousin did their divorce isn't a great reason for you to hire the same person. You need an attorney who shows divorce as their specialty on their website or business card.
It’s extremely important that you fully understand your rights and obligations for your divorce. Don’t base an assumption on the experience of a friend or relative.
You will need to provide your attorney with as many legal and financial documents as possible. The less work your attorney needs to do to get this information, the more you will save.
This is part of a process known as ‘discovery’ – your spouse’s attorney will be in contact with yours, sharing financial and other relevant information. This will help the court determine whether and how much assistance you might be able to ask for as maintenance, if necessary. (What they now call ‘maintenance’, or ‘spousal support’, is the modern term for what used to be called ‘alimony.’)
An attorney will charge for every phone call, every letter sent, and any other work done on your behalf. Usually, a sum of money, called a ‘retainer’ needs to be paid up front to cover initial filing and other expenses, with additional charges billed to you when that amount is used up.
A divorce or marital mediator’s services, which are much less expensive than most attorneys, can guide you through the process.
If you are very lucky and you have a no contest divorce, you can save so much in Attorney fees... BUT please do the math first!
Be careful trying to do this yourself. Unless this is a very fair, agreeable split - remember it won't be easy to negotiate your own divorce with your spouse.
Are you sure that your spouse has no hidden accounts? What about any other assets or property brought into the marriage from a previous marriage? If you have shared assets, those legal expenses may be well worth it to keep what’s yours and to get a fair settlement that won’t leave you impoverished.
While there are “Do It Yourself” forms on the internet, this route can be a legal minefield.
If you’re financially independent, few assets and have kept your finances separate instead of in joint accounts, it may work.
Remember though, that your assets, such as your house and other property, and other assets are at stake. Do you want to risk these to save a few dollars?
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