Things to do if you're considering a divorce
Coming to the realization that you want a divorce is often a slow and painful process. After journeying this far, it's hard to believe you're only at the beginning, but divorce itself is often even slower and sometimes more heartbreaking than the decline of the marriage itself.
If you're considering a divorce or have recently decided to get one, it's important to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the process ahead of you. No matter what, going through a divorce is never easy—but preparing yourself ahead of time can make the process much smoother and less difficult.
I recently sat down with Julia Rodgers of Holistic Divorce, an online resource dedicated to helping people get through divorce as smoothly as possible, to talk about the three most important things to do if you may be getting a divorce in the near future.
1. Avoid going with the cheapest option.
Though many couples spend huge amounts of their personal wealth on lavish weddings, cost is often the first concern when it comes to ending a marriage. Doing your research and getting a fair deal is important, but you can complicate things by going with the cheapest option possible.
There are many websites out there that claim to offer a “downloadable divorce” for a very low price—often as low as $300. However, most of these are outright scams, and even the best among them isn't likely to help at all if you and your partner have any kind of taxable assets or personal property.
Essentially, all these sites offer is the opportunity to fill out court documents and print them out. They do not offer legal advice. Also, these court documents are often available free of charge from your local courthouse—and in many areas can be printed out for free from a court's website.
Instead of falling for the false hope of one of these sites, you should research qualified divorce lawyers in your area. Look at testimonials, call with any questions you have, and compare prices. Even though hiring a lawyer is more expensive up front, it could save you thousands of dollars and some serious headaches later.
2. Protect your credit score.
Shared debt is one of the most complicated things to figure out during a divorce, and can have a serious impact on your post-divorce life. To make things simpler, get prepared before anything goes to court.
To start with, order your credit score—the federal government allows every citizen to get one for free from each of the major credit bureaus each year. Having your credit score in hand will let you know where you stand, and will also help you figure out what debt is in your name. No matter what happens during the divorce, you will be the one responsible for this debt.
The next step is perhaps the most important thing you can take care of pre-divorce. Close or freeze any and all joint credit and bank accounts. This will prevent you and your spouse from accidentally or intentionally damaging each others' finances during the complicated and often contentious divorce process.
3. Decide what kind of divorce you want in advance.
There are several options available as to what type of divorce you want. Reading up on the various ways to divorce in your state, will allow you to choose the best attorney for your needs and prepare yourself for the emotional road ahead.
Ideally, you and your spouse will be able to agree on divorce terms without going to trial. 95% of divorces in the United States are resolved this way, termed an “uncontested divorce.” A contested divorce, or one that is resolved through court intervention or at trial, is much more expensive and emotionally draining.
However, even the simplest uncontested divorces require some negotiation. Services that may help you negotiate an uncontested divorce include mediation, a process by which a qualified professional will help you and your spouse come to a mutually satisfactory resolution.. A collaborative divorce is another simple and more cost effective option (offered in many states); in this type, you and your spouse each hire a certified collaborative attorney, and engage in the collaborative process with your lawyers present.
You know your relationship better than anyone, so try to gauge in advance how difficult the negotiations between you and your partner will be. Honestly assessing this up-front will help you find the best attorney for your situation.