Whether you are initiating a divorce, or you have learned your spouse wants a divorce, life is about to become completely different. Feelings of surprise, uncertainty, confusion, embarrassment, betrayal, and even relief may immediately begin to dominate your thoughts and cloud your judgment. Unfortunately, more than 50% of married couples find themselves in the same situation. If one or both of you determine there is no chance of reconciliation, then it is time to shift your mindset and get ready to hopefully amicably resolve your case.
1. Take Care of Yourself
The average contested divorce case lasts somewhere between nine and 12 months. This is a relatively short period of time, but when you are in the thick of it, it might seem like an eternity. If you are struggling with the emotions outlined above (and/or some other ones), it might be wise for you to engage a therapist to help you manage these emotions. Having a therapist by your side during this process might be some of the best money you spend in your lifetime. In my experience, some solutions, or resolutions to issues in family law cases are extremely simple but end up being complicated when emotion is injected into the equation.
2. Don’t Go Through This Alone
Building on the previous point, there are almost limitless resources to help you successfully reach the finish line of your case. Whether it is a therapist, a divorce coach, a trusted friend and/or family member, you should surround yourself with people that will help you manage the stress and emotions of this process. The people you surround yourself with need to recognize that every family law case is unique. While they may have recently gone through their own divorce and want to share their experience and apply it to your case, you need to recognize the facts and/or laws are likely different in your case. The only person who should be helping you make strategic decisions is your lawyer.
3. Hire (or at Least Consult with) a Lawyer
You need to understand your rights. You need to understand how the law applies to your case. You need to speak freely and openly with someone who has a legal obligation to advise you as to what is in your best interests. Hiring, or at least consulting with an experienced attorney, is a must for you. When I wrote my book “Move Forward Confidently: A Woman’s Guide to the High Net Worth Divorce”, I wrote an entire chapter dedicated to hiring the best lawyer for your case. In a nutshell, you must hire someone who has a tremendous reputation for successfully representing clients like you in family law cases before the judge you might possibility appear before. Your case will likely end up before a mediator. Remember, a mediator is not a lawyer. The mediator’s job is to settle the case – not to give either party legal advice.
4. Copy Financial Documents
Make sure you have access to all your financial documents. Think tax returns and/or statements from:
- Investment Accounts
- Retirement Accounts
- Credit cards
- Venmo, PayPal, etc.
- Health Savings Accounts
If you do not have access to these documents, you will be able to request them from your estranged spouse. However, it is more efficient, and it will be helpful to your lawyer, if you can provide him or her with this information on the front end of your case. Another document that is helpful to your lawyer to have, if it is applicable in your case, is any offer to purchase a business you and your spouse own. Any other document that might help your lawyer ascertain the value of an asset that might be in dispute will also be helpful.
5. Include a Financial Professional on Your Team
The job of your lawyer is to help you get the best possible outcome. Having a financial professional like a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or a Wealth Manager as part of your team will increase the odds of optimizing the financial outcome in your case. Law school does not provide the requisite financial training to family law attorneys. The financial professional will assist your attorney in helping them determine the best and most efficient settlement option for you. Further, your financial professional will help you translate any proposed settlement and help you understand how much money you will have available post-divorce to run your life.
6. Think Positively
There is no question that divorces are stressful. You have probably found yourself in a place you thought you would never be. Remember, countless people before you have successfully survived this expensive, stressful, and unfamiliar process and have come out of it stronger and more confident than they were at the beginning of the process.
As I mentioned above, there are many resources available to help you successfully navigate your case. We would enjoy helping you! Please call us at (904) 280-3700 to discuss the financial issues in your case.