By Steve Unger
Special to DadsDivorce.com
Many people in bad marriages simply focus on getting past the legal divorce process and then moving on, but you need to prepare for what comes after that.
Your post-divorce lifestyle is naturally going to be very different, especially if you had a two-income marriage. You may suddenly face the need to support two homes, two sets of insurance policies, and many other additional financial burdens.
You’ll need to adapt to those new issues quickly, and if you have joint custody of your children, it can get even more complicated.
First, get organized.
Before entering a divorce, you should get your personal records and papers together. Start by assembling detailed, up-to-date information on all of your financial assets and liabilities: bank accounts, investment portfolios, mortgage statements, insurance policies, outstanding loans, etc. Make copies of all the documents and put them in a safe place.
If you’ve already retained a mens divorce attorney, let him or her advise you on compiling your financial paperwork to make sure you have everything you need. If you haven’t yet hired a divorce lawyer, you definitely need one before heading into the divorce proceedings.
Next, open up bank accounts and credit cards in your name only. But be careful when transferring funds from joint accounts or making large deposits. Consult with your divorce attorney about the best ways to establish your individual accounts.
Make a budget.
Start planning for your post-divorce life by calculating your anticipated income and expenses. Then discipline yourself to stay within a budget. Focus on what it will cost you to live, plus other required monthly commitments such as child support.
Most divorce professionals agree that you need to look ahead several years when setting up a budget after a divorce, rather than just concentrating on starting over. That’s particularly important if you’re hoping to save for your children’s education down the road.
Plan your asset division for the long term.
When you get to the divorce negotiations, be prepared to make smart financial choices. When you and your spouse divide assets, use your head not your emotions.
Things like nice cars and boats will naturally depreciate, while property and investments should increase in value. However, in today’s soft real estate market, you may be better off giving up the marital home in exchange for other tangible assets.
Work with your divorce attorney and financial advisor to evaluate the pros and cons of taxes, mortgages, resale value, etc., before you agree to a settlement.
A divorce can be a long and painful process, and many spouses end up making unnecessary concessions just to speed things along, but don’t give in. A decision might seem like a good shortcut at the time, but it could end up costing you a lot of money over the next several years.
Make sure you have a sharp, experienced divorce attorney who has your best interests at heart, and who can legally fight to protect your spousal rights and personal assets.
Choose your lawyer carefully.
If you’re thinking about a divorce, partner with a law firm that focuses on handling situations like yours. Research some of the top family and divorce lawyers and check their references. A divorce is too big a step to take without the best representation and support possible.
Cordell & Cordell:
Steve Unger is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Mo.