Divorce and separation is a difficult decision for couples to make, though often the decision feels made for them. Women disproportionately face hardships when it comes to childcare and financial matters, making it an even tougher road to take in a bad marriage. With some preparation, women can cut down on the stress and uncertainty of life during and after divorce.
Life should not be more difficult for women and mothers looking for better lives for their families—below are some bits of advice that any person can use when preparing for their divorce.
Start a War Chest
You are going to need your own money for a divorce. You will have to be able to maintain yourself and your children for a while if you are dependent on your spouse as your spouse may decide to cut off support suddenly.
You will also probably need funds to hire a lawyer. If there is any way to start a separate account to guard against future financial contingencies, now is the time to do it. If you have to borrow money from a relative or friend, be sure to sign a promissory note so the court will look at this as a loan that you have to repay and not as a gift.
Keep a Divorce Calendar
If you are currently using a desk calendar or day planner, include your divorce events. You will need to track meetings with your lawyer and especially court deadlines. It may be helpful to also keep track of discussions with your spouse.
A divorce calendar may be used as evidence in your case when your spouse did not keep an appointment, or violated an agreement or court order in some fashion. Visitation dates with children need to be written down. You will also want to keep track of appointments with your children’s teachers, doctors, coaches, and tutors. This may become evidence of your participation in your children’s lives in your divorce.
Make a To Do List
You will need to stay organized and set your priorities during a divorce. List all the items you have to accomplish and mark them off as you go through them.
Prepare a Divorce Notebook
A divorce produces a lot of paperwork. The simplest way to keep track of all these papers is with a three-ring binder and a three-hole punch. Put papers in chronological order and make an index.
Set up a Divorce File
You may prefer to set up individual files for various categories of divorce papers. Some examples are correspondence with your attorney, drafts of agreements, financial information, and pleadings. Files with brads and a two-hole punch will help you keep papers neat and organized.
If you have debt in your name, like credit cards or student loans, you will want to pay those debts down as much as possible before a divorce. Most American families spend close to their entire income, if not more, and when one household becomes two, there is often not enough money to pay the both sets of expenses unless something changes.
You may have to cut down disposable purchases, sell your car and get a less expensive model, or maybe sell the house. If your spouse does not voluntarily support you and the children, your remedy is to ask the Court to order support. You will not have a good prediction of any of this and you will not know the answers for sure until the agreement is signed or the judge makes a ruling. But, the point is to think about it and identify problems and possible solutions. Then take the actions that you can take and avoid missteps.
Stick to a Routine
It will help if you try to keep things as normal as possible in your life. Do not skip meals or change sleeping habits. Positive routines like using your to-do list and calendar will help you keep focus. Exercise is always a great way to relieve stress. Try not to isolate yourself from your friends.
Try to maintain a positive outlook and do not let yourself be lured into needless conflicts with your spouse. You will need his signature on a settlement agreement before your divorce is over. You will still be parents together for years after the divorce.
Make a Plan
Take it one day at a time. Focus on the present and not the past. Try to control only those things within your control. Many things in a divorce are outside of your control but you cannot blow those things out of proportion. Make a plan and work on it. That is how you will take control of your divorce and not let it take control of you.
Gather Financial Information
The more you can organize your own financial documents, the more you will reduce your attorney fees and improve your chances of success. You are going to have to gather and organize a lot of information for your attorney or your case. A good way of organizing the information you find is a financial statement which can be used as a checklist.
Many courts have a form financial statement available at the court clerk’s office and sometimes online. If you can obtain this form and fill it out, it will help you gather and organize your financial information. Give it to your lawyer at the first meeting to save time and expense.
Do Your Research
It is valuable for you to learn everything you can about divorce early in the process. If you know little or nothing about the process, you may not make the best decisions or choices. Most people are uncomfortable with the unknown. You can raise your comfort level and your odds of success by finding out what is going to happen before it happens. The Internet is a convenient way to obtain summary and detailed information about divorce.
Of course, there are other ways to research the subject. You can start your research at a library or bookstore. There are seminars and support groups. Talk to friends who have been through a divorce. But, keep in mind that every divorce is different. It’s a good idea to learn about the basics of divorce law in your state early in the process.