Thinking Divorce? Where do I start?
“Divorce” can incite so many emotions in a person, whether they’ve been through the process, are in the middle of the process, or are just starting the divorce journey. Emotions such as fear, guilt, anger, betrayal, loss and shock can wreak havoc in the divorce process.
Where do I start? Where do I go? Who can help me? What do I do? These questions can create roadblocks to critical decisions that need to be made.
As soon as we begin working with clients, we recommend they get a lifestyle analysis and get organized. Emotions can create erratic and impulsive decisions that can be critically detrimental to your long term well-being. All the while, the ability to gain clarity and knowledge can be lifesaving and alleviate so much stress. We can’t control other people or their behavior, but we can take steps toward finding solutions and creating a new life.
From our experience working with clients, we’ve found that clients who take charge of their financial well being and have their affairs in order fare the best in the divorce process.
If you’re thinking divorce, here are a few simple steps to get organized:
- Get your financial documents in order. Gather together yours and your children’s personal documents (birth certificates, passport, marriage license, etc.), your asset documents (bank accounts, deeds, titles to cars, boats, etc.), retirement account information, estate planning documents, tax returns, insurance documentation.
- Store Your Documents in a Safe Place.
We have developed a Forever Box which is a storage system which consists of pre-labeled expandable files that are color-coded for use ease of use and organization. This box can be used for copies of your documents to give to a friend or family member for safe keeping, or can be safely stored in a fireproof box if you are housing the originals.
- Get a Lifestyle Analysis.
Once you have gathered and organized your documents, it is time to have a Lifestyle Analysis prepared. Essentially, a Lifestyle Analysis establishes your standard of living prior to divorce. It reconstructs the day to day spending habits of both you and your spouse and determines the lifestyle of which you are accustomed to living.
The Lifestyle Analysis creates an accurate picture of what funds are required to maintain the standard of living of which you were accustomed during your marriage. These calculations act as a guide to help develop a budget for yourself as a single woman/mother. Of course, maintaining two households is more expensive than maintaining one, so it may not be possible to completely maintain your marital standard of living, but this analysis lays out the details of expenditures for consideration by the Court. In addition, the Lifestyle Analysis can serve as the basis of your new budget and your new lifestyle post-divorce.
So what can a Lifestyle Analysis do for you?
I recently had a client who brought her lifestyle analysis and her current Court Order which mandated that she pay thousands of dollars to her ex-husband as a result of a Support Hearing. I was able to help her organize her paperwork in the Forever Box so she had all essential documents that were a part of her financial wellbeing. I helped her connect with a mortgage broker so she could refinance her home, contacted her insurance company to reduce her auto policy expenses, and find an attorney to help her reduce her support payments based on this new financial plan. With this new budget and new lifestyle in mind, we were able to save this client thousands of dollars a month in expenditures and she was able to live life with less stress and more clarity.
Being organized and in the know can create clarity, peace of mind and focus during this very difficult time. If you’re thinking about divorce, take these simple steps now so you know what your financial future looks like during and post-divorce.
To learn more about our Forever Box, contact us for more information.
Catherine Shanahan is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst at My Divorce Solution who partners with Karen Chellew, LL. My Divorce Solution is committed to helping divorcing couples develop a transparent plan via a three-phase process to optimize the outcome of their divorce. Phase 1 is the development of the financial portrait.
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