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A client walked into my office recently, visibly upset. She was on the verge of signing legal documents to purchase her new home, but was now second-guessing her decision. In the midst of the divorce process and negotiating her financial agreement, she sought advice on preparing for the new life she envisioned post-divorce.
How does one prepare for divorce? While you might have a vision of your financial situation after the divorce, the reality and your expectations might not align.
What should you avoid during a divorce? Don’t make any significant investments or purchases before your divorce decree is signed. You might end up being responsible for these expenses, such as jewelry, vacations, clothing, and so on. Don’t make purchases based on projections; the outcome can be unpredictable.
How should a woman – and a man – prepare for a divorce?
If you’ve been the financially uninformed spouse and lack a credit rating, now is the time to start building one. If you’re living in the marital home and your spouse has moved out, consider changing the household bills to your name. Pay these on time and in full to start establishing a good credit rating. If you had a joint credit card with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, the principal card holder has the credit rating. Apply for a credit card in your name. If you’re a first-time card holder, start with a small credit limit and gradually increase it as you prove to be a good credit risk.
Getting your finances in order is critical. All family law attorneys agree on the importance of their clients being as financially aware as possible. It’s the best way to understand your rights and obligations and set realistic expectations early in the divorce process. Your family law attorney can then provide informed advice based on facts, not speculation. The more you can manage and organize your financial documents for your attorney, and establish realistic financial goals, the more you can help reduce your attorney’s billable hours!
Get involved in your finances. Understand the basics – pay the bills and file the statements. Learn how your daily and monthly expenses are managed. Determine where the money is coming from and how it is applied toward your budget. Participate in setting up investments such as retirement accounts, and understand where and what the other assets are.
Many family law attorneys suggest that if someone is contemplating a divorce or separation, one of the first things they should do is gather their financial documents.
How to organize your divorce finances checklist
Developing realistic expectations when it comes to finances is of utmost importance. One of the many concerns that my clients voice most often during a consultation is their lack of knowledge and organization skills when it comes to their finances. Getting your finances in order with the objective of cutting down on your legal expenses should be a priority.
Lawyers don’t always agree on every issue. But, when it comes to finances, all family lawyers agree on how important it is for their clients to be as financially aware as possible. It’s the best way to learn your rights and obligations and to determine realistic financial expectations early in the divorce process. And the more you can manage and organize your information for your family lawyer, the more you can help reduce your family lawyer’s billable hours!
Here are some ideas as to learn about your finances if you were not involved with finances during your marriage:
Get more involved in your finances. Know the basics – pay the bills and file the statements. Learn how your daily and monthly expenses are managed. Understand where your money is coming from and understand how to budget. Take part in managing or setting up any investments, know what your outstanding mortgage is and the terms and so on. Gain awareness of your outstanding assets and liabilities.
Many family lawyers suggest that if someone is contemplating a divorce or separating, one of the first things you should do is accumulate the financial information.
Once the divorce process is under way, your family lawyer will need ready access to all relevant financial documents. Start by locating and gathering together the following records pertaining to both you and your spouse:
social security numbers income tax returns for the past three years retirement savings plans statements for the past three years bank account statements insurance policies (life; automobile; house; other) stock certificates credit card bills employment payment stubs brokerage statements pension statements pension valuation health insurance and work-related benefits real estate records receipts and monthly statements documenting household expenses and everyday expenses (groceries, gas, heat, water, personal grooming, transportation, gifts, clothing, laundry and cleaning supplies, entertainment, miscellaneous expenses, and so forth) list of all assets and liabilities date of separation (the date of separation, or “valuation date,” is the date that is used to determine the value of particular assets–the matrimonial home, bank statements, investments, and so forth)
Photocopy everything, and store your set in a separate folder from the original records. Don’t just keep the originals for your own personal use; the other side is entitled to these documents, too. If you do withhold these records from the other side, sooner or later you are going to be asked to provide them, which will cost you even more in legal fees.
Keeping this information organized, being well informed and involved will give you a feeling of control, reduce the stress, and help to develop realistic financial objectives.
With more than 25 years of real estate industry experience, Joan Rogliano enjoys the distinction of being the only licensed Realtor in the United States who holds the four-part designation of Real Estate Divorce Specialist, Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist, Council of Residential Specialist and Graduate of the Real Estate Institute.
As the broker-owner of Rogliano Real Estate Group since 2006, she has dedicated her professional expertise and personal life experience to enhance, educate and empower women in transition of divorce and widowhood. Her specialty is assisting families with the life decision of what to do with the marital home when they are divorcing. Usually the largest asset they have, the focus on their personal options is vital.
Q&A With Joan
Q. What is the most important message you try to convey to people going through a divorce?
A. Take a deep breath and slow down! Divorce is an experience that is filled with lots of emotions, so everyone tends to “just want it over with”. This leads them to frequently make hasty decisions that are not coming from an informed place. Seek out the professionals you need on your team and use all the resources you can, to educate yourself on your available options. You must be proactive for yourself and your children as these decisions are hard to reverse after things settle down.
Q. How has divorce impacted your life personally?
A. Divorce was not part of my life plan but has been the greatest influence on my life. It teaches us so much about ourselves, family, friends and even acquaintances. Over the years there have been profound shifts in my relationships with my children (who are now grown), and a deep respect for what we experienced together. We are all in agreement that divorce has made us stronger and wiser. It also creates an immediate bond when meeting individuals who have, or are, experiencing divorce either personally or through a family member or friend.
Q. What are your thoughts regarding how thesmartdivorce.com can help families and children deal with the journey through divorce?
A. Divorce creates vulnerability and there are definitely people who will prey on that. It requires support and a new community of trusted resources. The Smart Divorce is a stellar example of resources that have been compiled with mindfulness about the value, substance and integrity of its participants. There are so many challenges for divorcing families and even a little bit of solid knowledge and understanding can help diffuse the situation. Participating in this process of providing education and emotional support via The Smart Divorce is an honor.
Q. What inspired you to get involved in helping families understand and deal with divorce-related issues?
A. While going through my divorce there was invaluable support available to me and my children. One’s inclination is to then lend a hand to others when we can. Through my work as a Realtor, it was revealed to me repeatedly that families were receiving a lot of misinformation regarding their family home. There seemed to be a one-size-fits-all mentality that the home needed to be sold, and there weren’t any options. Education was required to prepare for this decision which should be customized for each family. As this was usually the largest asset a family held, missteps could prove costly, both financially and emotionally. Divorce brings major changes to life and a home can become vitally important for some sense of continuity, particularly to children.
Q: How will your affiliation with thesmartdivorce.com help others become more aware of divorce issues, conflicts and resolutions?
A. The Smart Divorce is a valuable avenue to spread the message that changes in the way divorce is viewed and handled by our systems have to be altered. We must make this a more humane and less costly experience for families. When we blend our voices they become louder, and that creates more power to increase awareness. I look forward to contributing to this discussion and creating more focus on the issues divorce presents.
Navigating the tumultuous waters of divorce can be challenging, but with a detailed checklist and a strong support network, you can ensure your best interests are protected. It’s crucial to stay organized, gather all relevant paperwork, and understand your financial assets and obligations.
From joint accounts to individual savings accounts, from understanding your spouse’s income to your own, every financial detail matters. It’s not just about dividing bank accounts or deciding on child support and spousal support; it’s about securing your financial future.
Engaging a good lawyer or a certified divorce financial analyst can provide invaluable guidance. They can help you understand complex issues like marital debt, investment accounts, and divorce laws. Remember, even your ex-spouse was once a trusted family member, and an amicable resolution is often in the best interests of all parties involved, especially children.
Consider seeking advice from a financial advisor to understand the implications of your divorce judgment on your financial statements and future lifestyle changes. Be prepared to discuss everything from your mortgage costs to your credit report, and don’t forget about less obvious aspects like life insurance policies and retirement savings.
Remember, it’s not just about surviving a divorce, it’s about moving forward and starting the next chapter of your life on solid ground. As you navigate this process, remember to take care of your health, lean on your friends and family, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you’re having a hard time.
Divorce may be the end of one chapter, but it’s also the beginning of another. With careful planning and the right support, you can navigate this transition and emerge stronger on the other side.
Remember, this is not just about closing one door, but about opening another. It’s about creating a new account for your life, changing your passwords, and starting fresh. It’s about ensuring that you’re not just surviving, but moving forward with strength and resilience.
Stay strong, stay informed, and remember, you’re not alone in this journey.
Divorce is an undoubtedly challenging chapter in one’s life. However, it doesn’t have to morph into a legal, financial, or emotional nightmare. Being well-informed and prepared for the journey ahead can facilitate a smoother transition, safeguarding your family, finances, and mental health.
The Smart Divorce® equips you with the necessary tools and strategies to maintain a balanced and thoughtful approach throughout the divorce process. It’s both a process and a step-by-step program that enables you to strategize intelligently about divorce, overcome conflicts, fears, and obstacles, and move forward with focus, hope, and confidence.
So, what exactly is a Smart Divorce? Divorce rarely proceeds without complications — especially when factors like children, property, and financial accounts are involved. Emotional upheaval and daily chaos are almost inevitable during the early stages of divorce. It’s during this tumultuous time that legal issues arise, and you’re faced with a multitude of decisions when you’re least prepared to handle them objectively.
However, with a smart divorce, you can effectively manage the competing legal and emotional aspects of divorce to ensure you make the best possible decisions for you and your family. This approach minimizes conflicts and costs. You learn to separate the “two divorces” — the emotional divorce and the legal divorce. With the support of a therapist and trusted family members or friends, you can understand and manage your emotions.
This emotional management will help you approach your legal divorce as a business transaction, a task you essentially have to undertake to prioritize your children’s best interests, arrive at a successful settlement, and move forward to a better life for you and your spouse.
The smart approach to divorce:
Acknowledges the emotions experienced during marital breakups
Guides you in processing your legal options and finding a good divorce lawyer early on
Assists you in making informed decisions, shielded from the damage that uncontrolled emotions can cause
Provides you with questions to guide your decision-making when assessing the right legal fit
Helps you prioritize your children’s best interests
Facilitates your transition back into single status, ready to embrace the rest of your life while fulfilling the responsibilities that stem from your former married state
Why is a smart divorce critical? Because the decisions you make during your divorce process will impact the rest of your life, and if applicable, your children’s lives. You want to make decisions that will allow all of you to live without regret.
The Smart Guides will help you be SMART about your divorce:
Start with realistic goals and objectives.
Maximize your knowledge and information.
Avoid being emotionally reactive.
Retain the best divorce team you can afford.
Treat your divorce as a business transaction.
Divorce is a journey. The Smart Guides help you navigate and break down in steps what you need to do to get through the process and practicalities of divorce, as well as to accomplish specific objectives:
Manage the emotional divorce and develop a support network
Understand the divorce options and resolutions available to you
Interview and choose the right family lawyer
Assess if your family lawyer is a good fit
Know how to prepare and bring the right financial information to your family lawyer
Consider your children’s best interests
Make smart decisions so that you can move forward with focus, hope, and confidence.
As you’ve navigated through this comprehensive guide, you’ve taken an important step towards understanding the financial realities of divorce. It’s a complex process that requires careful planning, organization, and a clear understanding of your financial situation.
Remember, it’s not just about surviving the divorce, but about setting yourself up for a secure financial future. This is where professional guidance can make a significant difference. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal complexities, while a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst can provide invaluable insights into your financial picture and help you make informed decisions.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that you’re not alone. There are resources and professionals ready to assist you. One of the most beneficial steps you can take right now is to schedule a Get Acquainted Call with us. This call is an opportunity for you to ask questions, gain clarity, and start building a support network that can guide you through this challenging time.
Don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help you navigate this journey and emerge stronger on the other side.
Remember, this is not the end but the beginning of a new chapter. With the right support and guidance, you can navigate this transition with confidence and resilience.
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