Planning Her Divorce

A typical divorce requires a great deal of planning and professional guidance.  It helps to have a general course-of-action in order to better prepare. 

Each divorce will be different depending on numerous factors such as the length of marriage, marital property/debts, type of divorce, reason for divorce, familial circumstances, negotiations and emotional involvement.  

The process can get extremely complicated or be completed with little professional intervention (such as when a couple uses a mutual attorney to prepare and file the necessary paperwork).  In some cases, couples may elect to complete the process with no attorney and in a short amount of time. 

However, the average divorce in the United States lasts for about a year and costs approximately $30,000 between both spouses.  Divorce is a serious event in your life; plan it right for the best possible outcome.

Utilize our "Planning Her Divorce" Guide to help you focus on specifics related to women and divorce.

Planning Her Divorce

Phase 1

  1. Decide to legally end a failed marriage
  2. Tell your spouse
  3. Start therapy, stress reduction techniques, stay healthy
  4. Gather all relevant data, documents and financial information: e.g. asset information with tax basis, prenup, tax returns, debts and expenses, income verification, etc. (for a complete list see the 2020 DMK article, Documents to Assemble When Divorcing
  5. If you aren't the one who manages your mutual investments, start researching all available data immediately to prepare for meetings with appropriate advisors as noted in Phase 2
  6. Understand all aspects of tax implications of asset allocation based on each asset or investment and anticipated overall settlement
  7. Make a planner and file folder with all pertinent details (do so for your spouse if you think it will help expedite the divorce)
  8. Research divorce laws in your state and determine if you are in a Community Property State or Equitable Distribution State along with how it will affect your divorce
  9. Determine if you want your own attorney, shared attorney or mediator
  10. Search for a local attorney with experience with cases like yours
  11. Interview attorney's and be sure to understand their fee schedule
  12. Determine the type of divorce best suited for you and your spouse
  13. Establish a way to pay for legal representation
  14. Determine state laws regarding a legal separation waiting period

Phase 2

  1. Establish legal representation
  2. Seek financial, legal, tax and real estate advice, as needed
  3. Consider assets, property and debts and how to divide them
  4. Understand the financial responsibility you have despite the legal divorce settlement that establishes the allocation of any marital debts (including the impact your former spouse's nonpayment of his portion of debt assigned in the settlement may have on your credit report or score)
  5. Try to resolve most details with your spouse regarding the settlement (unless otherwise legally advised)
  6. Understand all current and possible future values of assets and any tax implications that would affect the value of your share of the marital assets
  7. When determining a fair settlement, consider current income/debts and future income potential verses debts for each spouse for the establishment of support
  8. If you were the primary caregiver for the children and household while your spouse built his career, you will want that considered when determining support or asset allocation in the settlement agreement (in a recent Worth study 48% of women said they had financial surprises following divorce)
  9. Expect your spouse may have experts determine your income potential when establishing support 
  10. If you currently earn less than your spouse and are unable to financially provide without your spouse's support, consider requesting tiered support (more at the beginning and tapering off over the coming years) to provide you reasonable opportunities to build your career or educate yourself in order to eventually earn more in the coming years (the Worth study also found that 44% of women wished to reinvent themselves following divorce)
  11. If choosing tiered support, make sure you have enough time and current support to increase your future income  
  12. If seeking a temporary job or part-time work, know that it will likely be considered when determining support (make sure you will be able to continue with the extra job following the established settlement if it was based on the additional household income)
  13. Understand tax law changes regarding the need to claim or opportunity to deduct support made by or to you (speak with a tax advisor if you have questions)
  14. Establish temporary and long-term child custody arrangements
  15. Prepare or request all documents relative to your children's care, education, health records, birth certificates, social security cards and tax returns, etc. so that both parents have access to relevant information
  16. Establish filing status for the recent tax year
  17. Consider a counselor, group therapy or therapist if positive activities aren't enough to keep your mood positive (positive activities may include family time, yoga, Pilates, hobbies, education or volunteering)
  18. Separate e-mail accounts and phone accounts
  19. Get to know the Stages of Divorce and evaluate which stage you are currently experiencing (know that your progress may slow down, or you may regress from time-to-time depending on your personal situation, longevity of the divorce or setbacks)
  20. Change passwords to everything that is yours and not related to marital property 
  21. Put the household utility bills in the spouse's name who retains possession
  22. Change the locks to the home and inform your spouse (unless unsafe to do so)

Phase 3

  1. Request any missing documents from your spouse
  2. Establish financial means based on worst case scenarios
  3. Determine living arrangements
  4. Gather most important items prior to separation
  5. Plan for moving and/or home sale
  6. When separating, the moving spouse should take all personal property, personal items (pictures, clothing, personal effects) and financials (documents/taxes/records) he plans to request in the divorce settlement and record all items he takes for both spouse's records
  7. Move one spouse to a separate residence or area of the home until the divorce is final (be sure to follow the legal guidelines of separation if required prior to divorce)
  8. Discontinue any physical relationship with a spouse or dating companion (discuss with attorney)
  9. Do not date or start a physical relationship with someone new
  10. Do not move in with someone with whom you have had or are having a physical relationship and know that it may affect your settlement if you do (even a platonic relationship may affect custody, settlements and support).
  11. Continue to practice healthy eating and fitness habits 
  12. Continue to pursue higher education, career advancement and self-sufficiency (women usually suffer greater financial hardship following divorce compared to men and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, divorced women are more likely to live in poverty or get public assistance than men)
  13. Establish a pre- and post- separation budget
  14. Consider you and your family's overall well-being when establishing your settlement if things start to stall or get complicated when negotiating

Phase 4

  1. Discuss potential pitfalls and expect problems so you are not surprised
  2. Continue in therapy, counseling or support group or get started
  3. Hire a private investigator and/or forensic accountant, if needed
  4. Turn over relevant documents to your attorney and to your spouse's attorney
  5. Follow up with your attorney to make sure he has everything he needs
  6. Understand the stages of divorce to avoid emotional turbulence in your legal divorce
  7. Grieve and process your emotions to avoid depression and poor health 
  8. Attend depositions, answer requests and turn over document promptly and honestly
  9. Do not hide income or assets
  10. Attend court and sign paperwork to establish a settlement
  11. Expect post-divorce blues and add positive activities like spending time with family, exercise, socializing or a hobby to chase the blues away
  12. Avoid old habits, bad behavior or unhealthy lifestyle
  13. Review and process the Stages of Divorce
  14. Don’t call your ex

Plan a party

Relieve some tension following a long difficult process and plan a party, gathering or event. It can provide some closure to the challenges you and your spouse recently faced and will give you, your family and friends some time to spend in a positive atmosphere. This can be planned with or without your former spouse to celebrate your new friendship, though most will find it therapeutic to plan their event on their own to establish their new beginning.

The party can be a relaxed event at home, a barbeque with the kids, a few family and friends or major bash at a dance hall with caterers and band. Make sure it fits within your budget and time constraints. But give yourself an opportunity to release the past and begin your journey towards a happier you and better future.


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