Divorce can be confusing and stressful, especially when you think about all that you have at stake. Your future depends upon a fair settlement. With that in mind, the good news is you can take several steps to improve your chances of a successful outcome.
As with most things, preparation is the key to success. And since a divorce will impact everything from your family and home to your retirement funds and social life, there are many ways you can prepare.
Gather all your financial records
Financial advisors and divorce attorneys commonly cite the importance of gathering all your financial records. These records may include:
- Bank statements
- Tax forms
- Receipts for large gifts
- Inventories of personal belongings
- Credit card statements
- Brokerage statements
Good records can help you distinguish separate property from marital property. They can help you present a clear picture of your finances—and your spouse’s. Gathering these documents early may help you avoid any spiteful attempts to block your access to the records, as well as any attempts your spouse may make to hide assets after you’ve filed for divorce.
Start recording the things you do for your children
If you’re headed for a custody battle, you’ll want to present a clear picture of how you support your children’s best interests. The court measures your children’s best interests according to more than a dozen categories, including the love and affection you and your children share. It also looks at how you demonstrate your love.
Notably, the court isn’t interested in hearing about your feelings. It wants evidence of your love and the ways you demonstrate it. Accordingly, you’ll want to think about how you can provide that evidence. This may mean taking notes about your involvement in your children’s lives, and it may also mean getting more involved.
Think carefully about your social media posts
As more people share their lives on social media, more social media posts are making their way into the divorce court. Divorce attorneys often use people’s posts to damage their cases. For example, someone who brags online about lavish expenses may find it hard to argue that they can’t afford spousal support. Likewise, posts that suggest reckless or irresponsible behavior may harm a parent’s custody interests.
If you know you’re headed toward divorce, you want to avoid posting anything that you wouldn’t want a judge to see. You want to be mindful of what your friends may share. And you may want to start saving the posts that illustrate your spouse’s bad behavior.
Develop your support team
Divorce can be hard, and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone. You want a team to support you. This team should include trustworthy professionals like your attorney, business valuator and financial advisor. But it should also include the friends and family who can offer you emotional support. Divorce can be isolating and lonely, so it helps to have your team ready from the start, lending you support along every step of your journey.
Identify your priorities
Finally, you want to think long and hard about what you really hope to get out of your divorce. The truth is that no one gets everything. Divorce is always a matter of division. The marital estate is divided. But when you come to terms with this well in advance, you can focus more clearly on working toward the things you need and most desire.
Meanwhile, as others have noted, it may help to consider what your spouse will want out of the divorce. This can help you in your negotiations.
Solid preparation can help you make the best of a hard time
There’s no escaping the fact that divorce is rough. But if you have clear goals and a clear plan, you may turn more of your focus away from your pain and toward the eventual outcome. Your preparation won’t completely free you of stress or confusion, but it can help you find the best way through a hard time.