Someone said the “D” word. While it may only be a bluff, divorce is a major life event that you must take seriously. Here are five things you need to think about before you do anything.
- Are you really at that point? – Marriage is not easy. It requires hard work and heartache. However, divorce is much harder. It can be devastating emotionally and financially. So, ask yourself, “Are we at the end, or are things just really hard right now?”
- Are you prepared to lower your standard of living? – The reality is you will both take a hit financially from divorce. Most people vastly underestimate the cost of maintaining two households. Items like cable, internet, utilities, and memberships can easily add up to a thousand dollars a month while individual health insurance can cost more than a mortgage.
- Is Legal Separation an option? – For many couples, it is a good alternative for religious reasons, to maintain health insurance for a spouse, or the possibility of reconciliation. Legal Separation is not simply “taking a break” from marriage. Like a divorce, you divide property and may have support and maintenance agreements, but you are still legally married.
- What would a divorce look like? – Divorce is complex. If you wind up getting a divorce, you will need professionals with the knowledge and expertise to help you. You may also need a new estate attorney, CPA, insurance agent, financial planner, health insurance expert, and real estate agent to protect you and help you do the following:
- Reach an equitable settlement, especially for spouses who have not worked in years.
- Update or create wills, trusts, advance directives, and other estate planning.
- Get life and disability insurance to protect any payments from your ex-spouse.
- Separate and reinvest your retirement, savings, and college funds.
- Completely separate all joint debts and establish new credit.
- Divide a family company while maintaining the continued success of the business.
- Discover any hidden assets or false debt created by one spouse to defraud the other.
5. Who gets the house? – One of the toughest decisions, and one where people make the most mistakes, is deciding what to do with the house. You can sell it or keep it, but you must have realistic expectations and not make emotional decisions. Be careful not to value home equity the same as other assets. Finally, if your spouse wants the house, make sure they refinance the loan no matter what.
While divorce may be right for you, most people do not fully appreciate the reality of getting a divorce. Faced with it, couples often renew their efforts to stay together and resolve the underlying problems in their relationship. If you end up getting a divorce, you must protect your family and yourself from costly mistakes. Don’t wait. Get informed and the get help you need.