Splitsville Simplified: What To Expect When You’re Expecting To Divorce
The divorce process takes time, patience, and expertise. If you are considering divorcing your spouse, your first step should be to consult with an attorney who is skilled in family law. By listening to your unique situation, he or she can apply years of accumulated experience to your advantage. Work side by side with attorneys who concentrate on specific aspects of divorce, as is the case with Certified Divorce Financial Analysts™ (CDFAs).
CDFAs are in the business of finding out the truth. This includes scouring the marital estate for every piece of financial information available and searching for hidden assets, or hidden debts, which are equally important. Documents that are vital to this effort include:
- Statements from retirement accounts: 401ks, IRAs and pensions;
- Bank statements; and
- Credit card bills.
And please note: It is not necessary to provide your team with the original documents; photocopies will suffice.
Cash or Credit?
At the same time as these preparations are taking place, be sure to begin saving as much money as possible. In other words, build a stash of cash! Not only does this ensure that you will be able to pay your attorney and financial advisor, it can also act as a financial airbag if your spouse attempts to retaliate against you by cutting off your access to funds.
Cash is not the only form of payment you should have at your disposal, however. Building up your credit is vital to beginning a new life, and there is a strategic way to do it. Taking out a line of credit while you are still married enables you to claim the combined income of you and your spouse, thus ensuring a higher limit. If you wait until after your divorce, it will be only your income that will be considered. Similarly, if you expect to be in the market for a new car, do it while you are still married in order to lock in the most advantageous financing.
Another challenge many divorcing spouses experience is a “depreciation” of the skill set required for their career. For instance, a stay-at-home mom or dad may be out of the workforce for a decade, all while his or her industry continues to advance without them. In order to combat this inertia, I recommend taking a strategic volunteering position. By strategic, I mean a position that draws upon your professional experience. For instance, an accountant or bookkeeper may make an excellent treasurer for a non-profit organization. Volunteering also empowers you to expand your professional and social networks, in addition to providing a welcome distraction from the emotional and procedural minutia of your divorce. If you don’t already have one, get yourself a LinkedIn profile to showcase your skills and make a fresh and positive impression on your former (and hopefully future) colleagues.
When You Assume
Some of you may be asking: Why do I need to know any of this? I will be getting alimony for the rest of my life. In New York State, that is simply not true. Alimony in New York is considered rehabilitative, which means it is a temporary measure intended to help the recipient until he or she is able to rejoin the workforce.
Divorce is always better if you prepare for it. The steps I have outlined above can all be done without the knowledge of your spouse, but once your divorce proceedings begin, that will no longer be the case. Take advantage of the calm before the storm to navigate the various different scenarios that could arise when you break the news to your spouse, and be sure to enlist the aid of experts who have the experience and knowledge to advocate for you.
Fabienne Swartz, JD (Belgium), Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™, is the founder of Financially Strong LLC, a company specialized in helping clients understand and navigate the complex financial issues involved in divorce and plan for their future.