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If you have been considering divorce, it has likely been on your mind for some time. While there are many areas of your life you will have control over through the divorce process, there is still a period of uncertainty, which can be very difficult. When you combine these feelings with the current Covid environment, the lack of control over your situation can make matters even more challenging.
One of the most significant things you can do right now is plan. What do you want your life to look like after divorce? While this may be your ideal scenario, it can help you begin to establish goals for yourself and help you prioritize what you will need to accomplish in your separation agreement.
You will need to obtain information about your assets and liabilities, including bank accounts, investment and brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, pension information, mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other debts, businesses, education funds, and similar items. Gathering tax returns for the most recent three years, as well as your W-2 and 1099 forms, will provide information critical to examining your income history.
Think about where you will live, including if you want to stay in your marital home, and what costs are associated with living there. You may think of mortgage, taxes, and insurance, but you also need to think of utilities, HOA fees, maintenance, and other incidental expenses. If one spouse currently takes care of certain things around the house, like Gardening or cleaning, you may now need to hire someone to help with those tasks.
Many individuals go into a divorce thinking they want to maintain their standard of living. This is often one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when the numbers may not work. While a particular income stream may have supported one household, it may not be able to support two. Putting pen to paper or using a spreadsheet to identify your personal post divorce budget will be a necessary part of the divorce process and will also help you determine what your post-divorce lifestyle may look like.
Children are significantly impacted by divorce, no matter what age they are. If you have dependent children, think about their emotional, educational, medical and mental health, as well as financial needs. Where will they live? Will they move between two homes or will the parents “hotel” for a period of time during the transition?
Dividing your life after divorce is very difficult. Establishing what your top five priorities are, the “if I get these I will feel like I won” items, will help you focus on what really matters to you. The ability to focus on what is most important can help you avoid conflict over things that are less important, and perhaps be more flexible in order to win in your most important areas. This can help you feel more in control of the process and cause less stress.
Begin to research an attorney you can work with. Are you looking for an attorney who is ready for a fight or someone who has a more collaborative approach?
You should consider working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. Ideally your attorney will also be a CDFA! CDFAs go through a training and certification process, which enables them to analyze situations and provide expertise regarding the financial issues around divorce both in the short term and the longer term.
A skilled therapist should also be part of your team. Friends provide incredible support during this time. However, a trained and impartial sounding board will be critical to helping you as you go through this major life change.
Attorney Jill Rynkowski Doyle is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst who assists clients with divorce and other family law matters in Washington, D.C. To schedule a consultation or request information, please call (202) 617-4256 or use the online contact form.