Most of us are pretty excited to be waving goodbye to 2020 in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, 2021 is looking more uncertain than we’d hoped. And if you’re anticipating a divorce, you may already be feeling overwhelmed about the changes to come.
Even if you’re planning for the most amicable dissolution of your marriage, just the paperwork can wear you down. At the same time, a peaceful resolution of your divorce could open you up to a whole new world of possibilities in 2021.
So here’s what you can do to help the process move as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Gather your financial documents
When most of us think about divorce, we think about the emotional strain of it. That part is very real, but there’s also a lot of administrative work that goes into a divorce.
The more prepared you are with the necessary documents, the more quickly your divorce can proceed. In Georgia, an uncontested divorce could be complete in as few as two to three months if both parties are able to follow the steps without delay. Part of that process is, unfortunately, a fair amount of document collection.
Knowing where documents are and having them ready can set you up for a straightforward and efficient progression.
One of the most important parts of a divorce proceeding is separating finances, and you can’t begin until you know what’s there to separate. You’re probably thinking right away about things like bank accounts, but you and your spouse may have multiple other assets and debts.
Consider things like:
- Retirement and investment accounts
- A mortgage
- Auto loans
- Credit card debt
- Student loans
- Tax returns
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about what documents you need, take a breath. Gathering what’s easily accessible in advance is a great step, but it’s okay if you need more guidance. Your attorney can help walk you through everything you need, and they’ll create any necessary legal documents.
To get a clear picture of your finances before you start any divorce negotiations, you need to know exactly how much money you (and your spouse) spend.
Start keeping receipts, recording transactions, and checking your bank account regularly. You can also use a service like Mint or You Need a Budget to help you keep track of what’s leaving your bank account.
In some divorce cases, parties must fill out a financial affidavit. Having these numbers in advance is helpful. Even if you’re not required to submit an affidavit, understanding your finances is essential. You and your spouse will use this information to develop a plan for separating assets. These numbers will also be critical in determining alimony or child support payments.
Even the most amicable divorces bring up plenty of emotions. Big changes always do.
Talking with a therapist can help you work through those feelings — either as an individual or as a couple. Even if you’re sure that divorce is the best option, an experienced counselor can help you process the emotions that arise.
If you have children, co-parenting counseling can be especially helpful. This type of counseling focuses on two things. You’ll learn how to peacefully support your kids through the transition. You’ll also develop a plan for effectively co-parenting into the future.
Many counties in Georgia require attendance at a seminar that covers basic co-parenting skills. For some couples, that may be sufficient to set the foundation they need. Others might need the more tailored support a counselor can provide.
Make a Plan for Telling Friends and Family
Sometimes telling people about your divorce can feel as difficult as going through it. Saying the words out loud to another person may make the whole thing feel more real. Plus, other people often have questions you’re not ready to answer or opinions that hurt your feelings. They may even make you wonder whether you’re doing the right thing.
Of course, this experience is deeply personal to you and your spouse. But you may find that the people closest to you have their own intense emotional responses to your news. This is especially common if your friend group is intertwined with your spouse’s or if you’ve become close to members of their family. They are allowed to have feelings about it, and you are not responsible for taking care of them.
Most importantly, remember: this is your marriage, and you don’t owe anyone else explanations or answers to their questions. That being said, preparing a couple sentences you can share when the issue arises may help you avoid the most uncomfortable situations.
If you have children, you’ll likely want an even more robust plan — not just for the initial conversation but for future questions and issues that come up. These recommendations can guide you as you talk to your children about your divorce:
- Tell your children as a couple
- Explain in general terms why you are divorcing, and avoid blaming language
- Avoid sharing the news on a special occasion
- Explain how some things will change and how some things will stay the same
- Reassure your children that you both love them and that the divorce is not their fault
- Don’t put your children in a position of taking care of you
- Invite questions, but don’t push if they don’t have any right away
- Anticipate mixed reactions, including anger, sadness, fear, anxiety. Some children will have no clear reaction as they adjust to the news
Identify Changes You’ll Need to Make to Your Life
No matter what your life looks now or how your divorce proceeds, your life after divorce will not look the same as it looks now. The more you understand those changes, the more effectively you can negotiate with your spouse and the more prepared you’ll be for the next chapter.
Hopefully you and your spouse will be able to peacefully and productively agree on a settlement that serves each of you.
Every couple’s situation is different, and it’s impossible to list every possible change someone might experience as a result of divorce. Here are some questions to get you thinking:
- Will you need to change your work schedule or other responsibilities to effectively care for children? For instance, do you want 50-50 custody after the divorce? if your spouse currently drops off and picks up the kids from school every day, you may need to modify your schedule.
- Do you want to stay in your home or move to a new home?
- Can you and your spouse afford two homes on your current salaries? Will you (or your spouse) need to get a job or change jobs to meet increased expenses?
- Will you or your spouse need to pay alimony or child support?
- Do you have a pet that you’ll want to consider in the divorce?
Going through a divorce can be emotionally draining and time-consuming. But the legal process doesn’t have to add to your stress. Think through issues that may arise in advance. Find any necessary documents. You’ll be well-prepared for a peaceful and productive divorce so that you and your spouse can move on to new chapters of your lives.
If you’re moving forward with a divorce, contact us to schedule a Legal Clarity Session. We are committed to making the legal process as painless as possible so you can step into the future.