Untying the knot doesn’t have to be messy or expensive. Here are 5 key things I ask my clients to do for themselves to make the divorce process go as quickly and smoothly as possible, at least on our end, without knowing of course how the other party is going to respond:
1. Gather financial documents- We need to know all the assets and liabilities accumulated during the marriage. If you are claiming some assets are non-marital, we need proof. Get estimates for the house and cars, and run a credit report to confirm that you are fully aware of the liabilities in your own name.
2. Prepare a monthly budget– You will have to make some educated guesses as to what your reasonable monthly expenses will be after the separation/divorce, especially for necessities like housing, food, clothing, medical care and transportation. Once you have that number and take into account your monthly income, we can figure how to address any deficits.
3. Do an inventory– No attorney or judge I know wants to hear about the “stuff” in the house. Make a list of all the items with approximate values, and then try to come up with your wish list of what you want to keep. If your spouse doesn’t agree to certain things you could play the coin toss game, or sell it and divide the proceeds.
4. Look at a calendar– With respect to time-sharing arrangements with kids, each family has a different schedule that is tailored to suit that family’s needs, so there is no exact formula, but generally speaking we can all accept that there will be a range of 4-15 overnights with the other parent that need to be identified so that the children can count on regular and frequent contact with both parents.
5. Get advice– You need to know your legal rights and obligations before you embark in this process, even if you then proceed on your own, and it is just as important to check in with counselor, even if just for 3 sessions. Divorce brings up so many emotions, and unfortunately emotions can cloud a person’s judgment, which is exactly what makes my job so challenging. The assistance that mental health professionals can provide to an individual going through a divorce is invaluable– not just during the legal process, but even long after my job is done.
Those that do this homework have a much easier time untying the knot than those that do not– and it keeps their legal expenses down considerably. Unfortunately, too many focus on the why the partnership is unraveling instead of focusing on the how— not that the why isn’t important from an emotional perspective, but we tend to keep that to a minimum in court, and hopefully you will too if you want to keep it simple and affordable.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.