I spent several hours last month with a client who is in the midst of divorce who reminded me of myself when I was going through my own divorce. If you are reading this, odds are you are in the middle of this unpleasant event in your life. Rest assured, it does end at some point!! I’m 11 years down the road from mine, and now of course I have 20/20 hindsight.
Allow me to offer 5 items I wish I would have known during my divorce. It would have made life easier back then, and much easier for the last 11 years.
- Get your emotions out with your support group – not your lawyer or coworkers.
The more emotional you are, the mostly costly your divorce could be. If you spend hours (or minutes) talking to your lawyer as if he/she was a therapist – the more-costly your divorce will be and the less likely you are to be taken seriously. Think about your divorce as a business negotiation. You are hurt and angry, yes, but you are also negotiating your financial future. Vent outside the lawyer’s office so you can enter negotiations with a business mindset.
I also encourage you to keep your divorce out of the business realm if you are working. Clients and co-workers may feel very bad for you, but venting too much to them could make them uncomfortable and cause them to avoid you. This process can be so painful, but please find a therapist and a group of friends to talk to – not co-workers, and certainly not clients.
- Settle out of court if at all possible.
You may be forced to go to mediation before court. This is an excellent opportunity to curb costs and prevent a very lengthy, expensive war. Prior to mediation, know what you really want to keep, what you are willing to give up and then be prepared to spend the day giving and taking. In mediation, the divorcing parties have 100% control over how things will be settled, assuming they can come to an agreement. If your case goes beyond initial mediation, the costs could skyrocket. Do not let your pride and emotions hurt you financially by holding out on one or two issues that may seem paramount at the time. Consider this – can what I want to keep be replaced with a new version of the item with the money I’ll save by ending this now?
- Taking a one time, penalty free 401k distribution during divorce.
Do you have a big 401k account but not a lot of cash on hand? If so, you are in a common place. Many homes are in the same position in America. Many people don’t realize each spouse, no matter what age, can take a one time, penalty free distribution out of a spouses 401k during the divorce process. You must take this distribution directly from the 401k – it’s not available from IRA’s without the pre-59 ½, 10% penalty. So divorce can provide an option to get out of the 401k and move funds to your name in a variety of ways. Talking to a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst about your options prior to negotiations is wise so you will know at least what your different options are.
- Identify and focus on what’s really important.
We all have a finite amount of financial and emotional capital. It’s wise to spend yours in areas that are important to you. By clearly articulating your needs and goals, you will expend less time, money, and emotional capital over the small stuff. Clarify the issues that are most important to you and focus only there.
- Avoid the gray areas & look down the road.
This is the biggest area I wish I had help in. I would have had so much less stress the last 10 years. Well, you don’t know what you don’t know. But, You by ready this NOW KNOW! Good for you!!
Gray areas in your divorce decree can lead to conflict in the future. This conflict hurts everyone – especially children. Plan for your children’s contingencies today to avoid conflict in the future. Who will buy the car when the kids can drive? Who will pay for insurance? How many extra-curricular activities will your child/children be involved in, and who will pay for these activities? Look at holidays – do you want to add Halloween or Easter to the holiday rotation? Is there a large family event annually which you want to establish rights to? Consider all your life events, and establish guidelines for possession of the children for those events as clearly as possible today to avoid conflict in the future.
We hope your divorce process is going smoothly. Odds are, things are up and down as they were for me. My heart goes out to you because I know what you are walking through. Please call our office for a complimentary consultation to get clarity of the financial side of divorce. Having knowledge really is power. Let us help empower you. Contact us at www.divorcestrategiesgroup.com today to schedule a complimentary consultation.