The divorce rate has steadily dropped in the United States over the last thirty-odd years. It is now a projection of just 39%, with first marriages still fairing better than second marriages. Yet even as it seems married couples are staying together more often, divorce is still a reality for many people.
Along with the sadness of a relationship ending comes the social complications of your family’s division. Not knowing what to expect from divorce is a heavy burden. Getting prepared for the realities of divorce before serving the papers is an important step for your own mental health and safety.
Your Finances During Divorce
If you share joint bank accounts, consider getting your own before initiating a divorce. Your assets will be fairly divided and apportioned by the court, but you will both have access to the accounts until it comes before a mediator or judge.
To protect the money that you have earned or have a right to, transfer or begin depositing in your own account ahead of separation. Should things become unpleasant between you and your spouse, you will have a safety net.
Remember to keep good records as this money will have to be reviewed along with all of your assets. However, having fast, exclusive access to cash can be important for your safety and sanity.
Consider whether other accounts need to be separated as well, such as retirement accounts. If both spouses are able to withdraw from these accounts, it may be necessary to gain exclusive access to your portion. Do this before your spouse can make unfair withdrawals.
Moving and/or Home Care
During a separation, you face three living situation options: remaining in the marital home together, leaving the marital home, or remaining in the marital home alone.
Though staying in the home together during your divorce can be difficult, it is also a way to make sure things are divided fairly. You will save on cash for the months leading up to your official split. It also gives the children some time to adjust to the change in your relationship without one parent abruptly leaving.
Moving out is sometimes considered a poor legal decision if you hoped to possess the home post-divorce. Though your property belongs to both of you, some legal professionals suggest remaining in the home if safe. At least make a list of property in the home before leaving.
If you remain the home alone, it may be a rude awakening to how much up-keep the home is as a single person or parent. If this is the case, think long and hard about the ramifications of keeping the home by yourself post-divorce.
Should any safety issues arise, consult a professional about what measures you can take. These may include changing locks and putting up security cameras. However, make sure you not violating any rights your spouse has as an owner of the home.
Managing Childcare During Divorce
Talking to kids about divorce is hard, and so is finding a safe place for them to be during the proceedings. Whether your divorce is amicable or not, you are likely facing major shifts in how childcare can be done.
If you are still co-parenting, seeing your soon-to-be-ex-spouse regularly may be painful. You will need to keep lines of communication open to parent your children together. But there are some steps you can take to reduce your interactions as you transition from being a one-household family to two.
A calendar app is your best friend. Uploading orthodontist appointments, sports games, and parent-teacher meetings makes sure that everyone has access to information regarding the kids’ schedules.
This way, no one can be accused of being left out of the loop. If such accusations are made, there is documentation to prove that notifications were given.
Furthermore, you can be clear on your child exchange schedule months in advance. By highlighting Mom’s weekend and Dad’s weekend, there will be no confusion when you reach the 4th of July about who is taking them to the fireworks.
You may be getting a divorce that leaves you single-parenting either against your will or out of safety’s necessity. You may find yourself struggling to find a trusted person to help out with watching the kids after school or while you work late shifts.
There are resources in your community that you can reach out to. These include family organizations, religious organizations, and low-cost aftercare programs at schools that can assist you in this difficult time.
Furthermore, document all incidences of contact with your child’s other parent. This should include frequency, visitation dates kept and dates broken, where they took the child and who they were with, and whether you had any concerns about the outing.
If there is a reason you believe your spouse is a danger to your child, such as substance abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or more, you will need to get representation as soon as possible.
Simply hiding or withholding your child from your ex-spouse can backfire on you should the divorce go to court. However, you can get temporary orders to protect your child in the interim.
Finding a Divorce Lawyer
If you are hiring a divorce lawyer, start by getting references from people you know. They can give you honest reviews of how they felt their case was handled and tell you about other lawyers they weeded out and why.
Other resources include referrals from lawyers you use elsewhere. This includes the lawyer who helped with a real estate purchase or the execution of a will. Though they do not practice divorce law, they will no doubt have contacts they will be happy to refer you to. A personal connection will make the process easier.
Divorce lawyers will often give you a free consultation to see if you would like to work with them. They can give you a broad outline of what your options are. Also, they can explain what the process will be like should you go through mediation or trial.
Take advantage of these free consultations and choose someone you are comfortable with. You will have to discuss intimate topics from your personal life with this person, so it should be someone you trust professionally.
Having a lawyer is especially important if you will need assistance with any other procedures. They can advise you on filing a restraining order against your spouse. They can also advise you on matters of custody pre-divorce-decree and how to make sure you are complying with your spouse’s rights as a parent.
For couples hoping to quickly and amicably get through the dissolution of their marriage, mediation is the best option. A mediator works for the court to act as an impartial advisor. They assist as the couple goes through the process of dividing assets and setting up a custody schedule.
You can still have a lawyer even if you use a mediator. Having an advisor who is biased in your interest is helpful during divorce. This way, you are appropriately advised of all of your options and rights.
Often mediation begins with the mediator speaking to both spouses separately. The mediator reviews their preferences in regards to shared property and custody. The mediator will draft a preliminary plan. Then everyone meets together to see what works in the plan and what does not.
Mediation can save a lot of time, money, and heartache. If the divorce is amicable and assets simple, mediation should move forward quickly.
When things are more complicated, such as unsuccessful mediation, going to divorce court is inevitable. Preparing for divorce court means working with a lawyer to build a case for yourself. You will want to show why you need requested support and the reasons behind custody requests.
You may also need to spend time building a case against your spouse. Though you may not hold ill-will against them, be logical at this point. If your marriage is ending because of a safety issue like substance abuse or violence, it is essential to prove to the court that they should not have custody and that they owe you support.
In court, the judge reviews all documentation you can provide as well as testimony. The judge divides property fairly and makes custody decisions in the best interest of your children.
What to Expect from Divorce
Knowing what to expect from divorce can get you prepared from filing all the way through the finalization of the dissolution of marriage. No one can tell you exactly what is divorce like, but you can make a plan for your finances, residence, and childcare before initiating the process.
Prioritize your safety and sanity during your separation and divorce. While you want the best financial outcome, don’t be afraid to walk away from property if it means escaping a dangerous situation. Protect yourself physically, legally, and emotionally.
Check out more of our articles about divorce to get yourself prepared.