I was in my early 40's when I divorced.  I had 3 children, ages 12, 14 and 16 along with a home mortgaged 90% of it's value.  I worked the entire time I was married except for 6 weeks maternity leave for each child. 

However, it was my husband that we put our money on.  My jobs were always secondary and supportive of his career.  I was the primary caregiver and backup wage earner so that he could be 100% vested in his career. 

Our hopes were that his career would eventually provide us long term assurances.  Little did I know I would be severed from his successes and left with a supportive role that could not provide the amount necessary to support myself and children.  When I settled with my spouse, I didn't know a judge would have likely awarded a me a more favorable judgement to include more support than I negotiated based on my circumstances and local laws.  I still would have wanted to avoid court, but knowing then what I know now would have made me a better negotiator.

What are some financial surprises I encountered during divorce?

  • Being unaware of total marital debt (debt incurred while married) to include: primary mortgage, home equity loans, revolving credit, auto loans, student loans, 401k loans
  • Failing to take into account the time spent raising my children instead of furthering my career when negotiating my settlement
  • Not knowing the state laws regarding divorce or the types of divorce offered in my state before negotiating
  • Failing to understand the state's minimum child support guidelines based on the primary wage earners income  
  • Assuming I would be able to keep my home
  • Underestimating legal fees and time frame for get a divorce in my state
  • Not getting a legal separtion agreement or temporary court order prior to separation to make support provisions and a child custody schedule
  • Failing to divide personal property at the time of separation
  • Not making copies of all financial and personal documents prior to separating
  • Not understanding healthcare laws or the cost of private health care insurance following my divorce - since my husband obtained our health insurance through his employer and I did not qualify for insurance through my employer, I had to choose between rent or insurance until I earned a higher wage
  • Not knowing how a judge would determine equitable distribution or alimony
  • Not seeking my own attorney who could have advised me to seek enough financial support, allowing me to live at or near my same financial means prior to my separation when my household income was inclusive of my former husband's earnings

What are some must-haves or legal considerations during divorce? 

  • Make sure your spouse has not already consulted or procured a relationship with an attorney you interview
  • You should have all financial information relevant to your situation at the beginning of your divorce (to include a completed monthly budget worksheet)
  • Have all records for any property owned by either spouse prior or during your marriage
  • Provide any information relevant to marital property, debts or insurance policies, wills, living wills, powers of attorney, durable powers of attorney, advanced health care directives, contents of safety deposit boxes, personal property, appraisals, etc.
  • Understand your attorney's fee schedule or know your primary contact at your attorney's office
  • Inform your attorney if you have a prenuptial agreement

What are some personal surprises during divorce?

  • Uncooperative spouse - Don't assume your spouse will be completely honest and forthcoming - get prepared for a loveless negotiator, instead of your spouse who treats you like a stranger in a business transaction for which he or she is willing to do what it takes to ensure he/she maintains an advantage (unfortunately, you must do the same)
  • Dating while separated - Prepare yourself and don't retaliate with dating before you are ready or cause undue stress at the negotiation table
  • Child wars - Be the parent who is emotionally available and empathetic of your child's perspective.  Don't get too vested in time, make your relationship about quality
  • Stealing - Spouses steal and can bold faced lie to get what they want.  It can be a shock that someone you once loved and entirely trusted seems to change overnight.  Once a spouse moves out, make sure you have a legal agreement and verbal clarification that restricts this spouse from entering your home unless invited
  • Slander - Divorce can bring about miserable behavior.  When a spouse fails to get what he/she wants it may result in phone calls, rumors or family gossiping that can ruin reputations, result in legal retaliation, or loss of jobs - be warned
  • Home and child care - What was once tough to manage with two parents may seem impossible with one - determine solutions to get help with home and child care early in the separation and divorce process - it may just be a new family schedule that needs to be initiated


You may never anticipate everything that can happen in a divorce.  Remember, you are 50% of the divorce and despite a soon-to-be exzilla making the process 80% miserable, that doesn't mean you should add your 20%.  It really won't help you feel better.

Don't leave without your property

Think about what you need now and in the future.  Never separate until all personal property is divided and personal documents are copied for both parties.  Work on the family budget document together, if possible. 

Save on legal fees, but do your homework

If your spouse is cooperative, there is no history of domestic abuse and your prospective attorney agrees, you should try to negotiate as much as possible yourselves to avoid costly legal fees.  But, you should understand your legal rights and possibilities based on your circumstances before agreeing to accept a possibly insufficient settlement that fails to maintain a lifestyle you are already accustomed.  Once you both hire attorneys, they may advise you to only communicate with them regarding settlement issues.  You should understand the scope of their representation and counsel, as well as, the fee structure. 

If you share an attorney, it's possible he/she is only hired to do the legal filing and paperwork and will offer little guidance otherwise.  It may be best to at least consult with your own legal counselor to provide you guidance regarding your circumstances and local laws relevant to your case. 

Separation agreement

Develop a separation agreement that spells out the temporary child custody, housing situation and support that will be used as a model for your divorce agreement.  Establish who will keep the family home or if it will be sold.  While separated, do not allow the non-residing spouse to re-enter the home unless it is a shared housing arrangement once a separtion has commenced.  Know that this agreement is usually the basis by which your attorney will begin to develop your final settlement agreement.      -OurDMK.com


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