5 Steps to Take Before a Divorce

Nearly every relationship starts with a giddy period of falling in love and imagining a life together. What most people don’t think about, however, is what happens if love, respect, and admiration morphs into something unlike a fairytale and even spirals into dysfunction. If the relationship is irretrievably broken, the next step is to move toward the future. If you are not completely clear on your financial situation, now’s the time to get prepared.

 

Get Organized

One of the most disruptive and emotional situations a person can experience is going through a divorce. Aside from the toll it takes on your mental well-being, it can also involve a lot of paperwork. Organizing the documents you’ll need can help make the divorce proceedings less stressful for everyone involved.

Gather your financial documents so that you can be fully informed about your finances. These documents include tax returns, bank statements, investment portfolio statements, retirement account statements, employment benefits handbooks, life insurance policies, mortgage paperwork, financial statements, credit card statements, trusts, Social Security statements, and car titles. See “Why You Should Have all of Your Important Documents in One Place.”

 

Focus on Your Children

Although it’s not easy to talk about divorce with children, try to have both parents there for such a conversation. It’s important to leave feelings of anger, guilt, or blame away from your children. If you remain level-headed and clear-minded, your children will stay well-balanced. According to KidsHealth.org, “the most important things that both parents can do to help kids through this difficult time is to:

  • Keep visible conflict, heated discussions, and legal talk away from the kids
  • Minimize the disruptions to kids’ daily routines
  • Confine negativity and blame to private therapy sessions or conversations with friends outside the home
  • Keep each parent involved in the kids’ lives”

 

Know Your Financial Picture

More and more lawyers and mediators see the benefit of bringing a financial expert into the divorce process at the very start. If a couple cannot solve their financial difficulties while the marriage was underway, it can often be difficult to agree on pressing financial issues when it has fallen apart. Understanding the scope of your finances and navigating financial issues can be some of the most significant divorce stressors, so talk with your financial advisor. We’ve walked our clients through divorce and rebuilding the financial infrastructure of their lives on their terms, with grace and intelligence.

 

Understanding Collaborative Divorce vs. Litigation Divorce

It’s essential to have proper support, protection, and representation during this challenging life transition. During a collaborative divorce, both spouses each hire an attorney who has been trained in the collaborative divorce process. Each attorney advises their client in a settlement agreement. The collaborative process may also involve other neutral professionals such as a divorce financial planner to help both spouses navigate financial issues. A coach or therapist can be engaged to help guide spouses through child custody and other emotionally intense issues. In this process, spouses control the process and timetable and make the final decisions. The lawyers work toward a mutually created settlement.

A litigated divorce is the most common, where the process involves submitting issues to family court to resolve them. Families may litigate if they can’t reach an agreement through other options. Usually, the decision to divorce comes from one person who wants the divorce, and the other doesn’t. That imbalance can make for an adversarial situation from the onset. It can rule out mediation and collaborative divorce since both require both spouses to cooperate and to voluntarily provide all financial information. In a litigated divorce, a judge controls the process and timetable and makes the final decisions.

 

Get a Support Network in Place

It’s so important to take care of yourself and make sure your well-being is front of mind. Take the time to get a strong support network in place and informed of what you’re going through. Divorce is one of the most difficult things that a person will go through in life. Be sure to surround yourself with people that will love and be there for you without judgment.

You may want to find people to help you support your children, too, like a youth leader, a favorite coach, or a school counselor. Even if you reassure your children that they can talk to you, they might be more open with someone further from the situation.

 

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The financial professionals at Versant Capital Management can help a collaborative divorce team by providing support and expertise for clients and their representatives in such areas as:

  • Identifying the short- and long-term effects of dividing property
  • Integrating tax issues
  • Analyzing pension and retirement plan issues
  • Determining if the client can afford the matrimonial home—and if not, what might be an affordable alternative
  • Evaluating the client’s insurance needs
  • Establishing assumptions for projecting inflation and rates of return
  • Bringing an innovative and creative approach to settling cases
  • Providing the client and lawyer with data that shows the financial effect of any given divorce settlement
  • Appearing as an expert witness if the case should go to court, or in mediation or arbitration proceedings
  • Collecting financial and expense data
  • Helping clients identify their future financial goals
  • Developing a budget
  • Setting retirement objectives
  • Determining the costs of their children’s education

 

Solid information and expert analysis are important resources for the best possible resolutions to help ensure financial and overall well-being.

Larissa Grantham, CFP®, CDFA® is a senior wealth counselor at Versant Capital Management.

Lisa Greve is the marketing and administrative manager at Versant Capital Management.

Versant Capital Management is a wealth management and investment firm located in Phoenix, AZ that has been serving high net worth individuals and their families since 2004. 

 

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