It's not just fitness clubs that see a surge in business when the calendar flips over to a new year. Family lawyers also see their schedules fill up as spouses resolve to make "this the year" that they finally do something permanent – yet, deemed necessary -- to resolve their unworkable marriage and move on with their lives.
Of course, as tens of millions of people around the world already know, divorce isn't painless. Even so-called amicable divorces can have their share of tension and stress, as spouses not only grapple with intense emotional issues, but must make sound, pragmatic decisions regarding their financial future. And that’s where Forbes’ contributing author Jeff Landers has some useful advice.
In his article “Five Best Financial Tips for Women Divorcing in 2013,” Landers suggests that women (and we at Divorce Magazine would add, men, too) can follow to make their divorce as painless as possible:
1. Collect and organize financial and legal documents.
Many family lawyers and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts™ have handy checklists to help spouses gather documents that they’ll need at some point during their divorce. Landers also wisely points out that spouses should keep these documents in a safety deposit box or other secure location. This may sound slightly paranoid, but it’s certainly better to be safe than sorry – and spouses can do “strange things” when money is on the line; even to (and in some cases, especially to) their soon-to-be-ex.
2. Check and monitor credit.
Regrettably, some folks – and we’re talking both genders here, even though Landers targets his advice to women – have no qualms about wrecking their spouse’s credit rating once the divorce process begins. Spouses can arm themselves against this possibility by requesting a copy of their credit report, and taking steps to correct any misinformation (which, to be fair, may be due to a computer glitch or some other irritating but unintentional cause).
3. Set-up personal accounts and credit cards.
Regardless of what the financial settlement will look like, spouses should get the ball rolling as soon as possible on building their own financial identity. Opening up personal accounts and applying for personal (i.e. not joint) credit cards are solid ways to start. At Divorce Magazine, we also recommend that spouses ask their family lawyer to recommend a financial advisor who specializes in working with divorcing individuals.
4. Put together a professional divorce team.
Landers, again wisely, points out that today’s divorcing spouses typically need more than their respective family lawyers to help them make it through the process. They may also need a financial analyst, a business valuator, a child care professional, a mental health counselor, a vocational expert, and more. All of these experts comprise a professional divorce team, and spouses can save themselves money, time and stress by assembling their team sooner rather than later. Again, speaking to one’s family lawyer is the right place to start.
5. Keep an eye on everything.
As noted above, spouses can do strange things when money is on the line – things that, later on, they come to regret and often pay a heavy toll for. Nevertheless, spouses need to be vigilant for signs that their partner may be hiding assets. Landers further urges spouses to think seriously about filing their tax as an individual and not jointly, since the IRS takes a dim and often merciless view towards spouses who are caught up in the filing-related misdeeds their partner, even if divorce is on the horizon.
Indeed, divorce will never be easy – and we think that’s a good thing (and perhaps tying the knot should be a bit harder than it is in most places, but we’ll leave that topic for another day!).
However, Landers’ sound advice – which, again, targets women, but we feel is just as applicable to men – can go a long way towards making a divorce as painless, inexpensive and efficient as possible.
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Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Business Valuators / CPAs