Have you thought about separating from your husband or wife? It’s a tough decision. It’s also one that’s been made by many other people. The good news is that because others have blazed this trail before you, their stories can advise you on what you need to know about getting divorced.
What’s the advantage of knowing some hints upfront? Quite honestly, you can save a lot of money, heartache, and time when you learn what you need to know about getting divorced. Even though you’ll probably make some stumbles along the way, which is totally understandable, you’ll be in a much better position as you move through the process.
Below are some of the top things to anticipate and prepare for in terms of ending a marriage. Though this isn’t an all-inclusive list of what you need to know about getting divorced, it covers many of the basic elements. Use it as your starting point.
You’ll Need to Take Some First Steps – Including Mediation
If you talk to a divorce attorney at almost any family law firm about what you need to know about getting divorced, they’ll probably recommend that you make a few initial moves. The first is getting all your finances in order, such as putting together a spreadsheet showing the property and assets you and your partner jointly own.
After taking inventory, you’ll be able to see at a glance what you both are dealing with from a financial perspective. Hopefully, you can still talk with your spouse to decide how you can best keep as much money as possible throughout the divorce. One method to help save some pennies along the way is to try mediation.
Why does mediation help you save money? Quite simply, if your divorce doesn’t seem to be contentious and you feel you and your spouse can work through everything from dividing property to custody issues, you can save a bundle on lawyers’ fees. Though you’ll probably still want to hire lawyers, you won’t be paying as much in the long run.
In terms of what you need to know about getting divorced as it relates to mediation, remember that mediation doesn’t mean you and your husband or wife sitting down at a kitchen table and hammering out details. Divorce mediation happens in a room with you, your partner, and a professional mediator. The mediator’s role is to help you come to agreements without swaying either of your choices.
To their credit, great, well-trained mediators understand that even if you’ve learned what you need to know about getting divorced, you may still be emotional. Therefore, they’re patient and assist you and your partner in being reflective rather than reactive.
Again, mediation can be a huge boon to your bank account. Of course, you each can ask your lawyers to join you at the mediation table if desired. In that case, you’ll pay mediation and lawyers’ fees. However, if you’re able to work through challenges faster, you’ll still come out paying much less than you would otherwise.
You’ll Probably Have to Hire Legal Representation
As was mentioned previously during the last section on what you need to know about getting divorced, you’ll end up working with a divorce attorney at some point. Very few couples don’t work with lawyers. Some try to do everything themselves only to discover that they’re unable to work through the court system.
As research shows, the so-called “legalese” can be difficult to understand. Unless you’ve been trained in the law, you may misinterpret your state’s legal divorce regulations and wind up making errors when prepping your documents or an important court appearance.
It’s important to recall that divorce attorneys can help you decide upon critical issues like child custody. If you and your spouse have kids together, you’ll need to figure out where the kids will live. At the same time, you should iron out all the details of yearly calendars. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s more challenging than you might think.
What makes child custody arrangements so frustrating at times? When you’re living together under the same roof, you don’t have to wonder about who’s going to pick up the kids from school or where they’re going to spend the night over the weekend. Instead, you just figure it out on a day-by-day basis, if changes are necessary. But when you’re divorced and sharing custody of the children, you have to follow set schedules.
For instance, your kids might live with you for one week and with your ex-spouse the next week. In theory, this makes sense: You each get the kids for half the time. Fair enough. However, what’s not so obvious is how the pick-up and drop-off will be arranged. What day does the changeover happen? What time? Are you going to pick up the kids or is your spouse? And what if one of you gets sick or your work sends you away to a conference for a week? Are you able to manipulate the schedule, or will one of you dig your heels in the sand?
Another child custody issue that springs up regarding what you need to know about getting divorced is the problem of birthdays and holidays. Plenty of parents have no trouble with any element of their divorce until they start to talk about major yearly celebrations. Moms and dads both want to see their kids at times like Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas. Divvying up the annual holidays or going back and forth can seem impossible and cumbersome. Therefore, it’s essential to have an attorney help work through all of the nuts and bolts of the child custody arrangement.
As a quick “what you need to know about getting divorced” side note, child custody and child support are not the same things. Child support is an amount of money the court decides is fair for one parent to give the other to pay for things like food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities. Child support laws vary from state to state. You’ll want to ask your divorce attorney about how they could affect your proceedings.
You’ll Have to Start Situating Your Family’s Finances
Remember that spreadsheet you created with all your finances? Now’s the time to pull it out. Make sure you didn’t miss anything, such as joint savings accounts or mortgage financing. For instance, your bank will still expect you to pay your mortgage, even if you’re getting a divorce. Be sure that you haven’t forgotten it or other major bills.
As you’re going over the finances, think back to your child custody arrangement and any talks you might have had with a child support attorney. If you’re the spouse who made less and you’ll be having the kids at least half the time, you’ll probably be getting some kind of support. Remember that any money that you receive in the form of child support is supposed to go toward the kids’ needs, not your own.
The better you understand your financial standing going into the divorce, the easier it will be at the end. Plan on tightening your belt unless you have quite a bit saved up and your job pays well. Divorce always costs something, and it can be more expensive than you expect. Still, if it’s necessary, it’ll be worth it in the end and you won’t miss the money you invested in making sure your divorce was done right.
You’ll Want to Solidify Who Pays for What
It’ll be to your advantage to talk about what happens after the divorce when it comes to paying for non-essential items for your kids. For example, which one of you will cover something like unexpected wisdom teeth removal? Will you share medical copays and costs? Or are the children going to stay on your spouse’s health insurance plan, which may be better than the one your employer offers?
Of course, medical treatment isn’t the only financial outlay you can expect in the years while your kids are getting older. Your child may want to take dance or painting classes or attend a private music class. Try as you might, you may not be able to pay for these extras alone. Will your spouse assist you, or will you get a lot of pushback?
A way some couples work out how to divide incidentals is to set a yearly figure per child. One parent might agree to pay $500 toward extracurriculars, and a parent who makes a bit more may agree to pay $750. This collective amount of $1,250 can be used for anything the child wants to do that both parents feel would be wise and beneficial. Anything above that amount would be at the discretion of either parent to cover solo.
You’ll Need to Determine What Happens to the House
Unless you’re renting a home or apartment, you probably own joint property. It’s not unusual for one parent to keep the family home, mainly for the sake of the kids or for convenience. Either parent can buy the other one out and essentially take over the mortgage, as long as the bank agrees to the new arrangement.
In some situations, parents have moved toward the unusual decision of allowing the kids to stay in the house while the parents trade off on living in a shared apartment. One week, one parent goes to the family house and the other parent lives at the apartment. After a week, they switch. In essence, the kids get to stay in one location and only the adults move. It’s a clever way to solve the problem of who lives where, but it’s definitely not a solution for every divorcing couple.
A far more common arrangement during divorce is to sell the house, split the profits, and allow both parties to leave with some cash in their pockets. If you’re planning to sell your property, you’ll need to get it show-ready. This will mean fixing minor and major repairs, as well as sprucing up the yard. Don’t squabble on the cost of things like roof repair, paving services, and exterior painting. Everything you do that increases the perceived value and curb appeal of your home means more money in your pocket at the end of the day.
Not sure which renovations to focus on? Typically, facelifts in bathrooms, kitchens, and other busy spaces provide the biggest return on investment for sellers. Be sure to start packing your things and moving the boxes into the basement or garage. That way, your home will look uncluttered and move-in ready for buyers eager to get a bargain in your neighborhood.
You’ll Need to Begin Planning for the Future as a Single Parent
Unless you find someone else to marry or live with right away, you can count on being single for a while. That’s not such a bad thing, either. You get the chance to regroup and heal after what might have been a messy divorce.
As you’re envisioning the post-divorce life you want to lead, start thinking about your future. You may want to get in touch with a wills lawyer to change your existing will or finally create one. Be sure to consider things like how your kids will pay for your assisted living cost if you need to move into a long-term health facility when you get older.
Why would you want to think about these types of serious things while you’re considering what you need to know about getting divorced? Now is really the best time to completely overhaul everything in your world from the ground up. Leverage your divorce as an opportunity to start again with a clean slate and do everything correctly. Yes, it can be sobering to talk about estate planning and other difficult topics. But since you’re already in the reinvention stages, you’re in a good space to have those discussions.
Getting a divorce is never an easy choice. However, understanding what you need to know about getting divorced before the process goes too far can change the overall experience and benefit your family in the long run.