Jumping into a divorce without planning could impact the rest of your life. Like any major life decision, the divorce process should be well thought out before taking irreversible steps. When a couple reaches the stage of divorce, there is usually an atmosphere of tension or even chaos. Emotions run high and clear thinking may take a backseat. Separately and together, you and your spouse should take stock of the current situation. Plan your divorce process and educate yourself and your spouse about all of your options.
The following is a list of steps you can take to make sure your divorce process goes smoothly. Hasty decisions could cost you a lot of money. On the other hand, following the right path through your divorce could ensure a brighter financial future than you had imagined. Keep a cool head and encourage your spouse to do the same. The divorce process is painful for your entire family. When approached with compassion for the family as a whole, you can minimize the emotional pain for years to come.
Divorce Process Preparation Step by Step
STEP #1: Make a list of your current and projected expenses.
Your first list should reflect your budget as it stands with your marriage and family in the present state. What items in your budget will disappear after your divorce? Which expenses will increase when you alone are responsible for the payment? Encourage your spouse to do the same and compare the two lists if tempers and time permit. Are there any debts incurred solely by you or your spouse? Get them out in the open and try to convince your spouse to accept responsibility. Likewise, if you have a debt that is yours alone resolve it by yourself.
STEP #2: Research the real value of your property.
In this step, it’s wise to determine marital property and separate property. The value of your marital property will come under scrutiny and could be a significant point of contention. Often, one spouse will over- or under-estimate how much a piece of property is worth, such as a vehicle or vacation home. Presenting a source of a reliable evaluation of the property can help to prevent months or even years of costly squabbling and litigatory measures. Be honest and forthright, then back-up your estimate with an expert evaluation. Be prepared with documentation and advice from a neutral party with expertise in the area. It may stop arguments before they start.
For example, if you bought a jet ski six years ago for $15,000 it may only be worth $1,000 today. Your spouse may argue that you only used it twice, so it should be worth the same as you paid for it. Get a proper market price valuation and put the argument to rest.
STEP #3: Who gets the house?
Deciding on what will happen with your family’s primary residence is the biggest hurdle in most divorces. For the average family that owns a home, it is the most valuable possession and has a mortgage or two attached. Usually, it’s best for everyone to sell the property and split the proceeds between husband and wife. If you both agree that one spouse will stay in the home, refinance to remove the other spouse’s name from the mortgage as soon as possible. That will avoid trouble down the line if the remaining spouse stops paying the mortgage payments. The spouse who left home could be liable to either make the payments or suffer the consequences on his or her credit report.
STEP #4: Will you choose litigation or mediation?
The cost differential between a litigated divorce and a mediated divorce can be substantial. Courts must resolve almost every dispute. Divorces relying on litigation can drag out over several years and become very costly. Mediated divorces are guided by a mediator who works to resolve issues quickly and amicably without having to schedule a court date for each disagreement. The mediated divorce process is often much less expensive and quicker than litigated divorces. The entire family can benefit as a result.
STEP #5: What is Your Best Case Scenario?
There will most likely be bumps along the road to your successful divorce, but it is always a good idea to map out your ideal resolution. Give yourself a realistic timeframe to make all of the necessary adjustments in your personal life. Commit yourself to a fair, compassionate outcome for you, your spouse, and your family. Get what you deserve but compromise when you must. Your happy future depends on it.
Choose a Divorce Attorney Who Has Your Family’s Best Interests at Heart
No divorce is two-sided. Divorce affects children, in-laws, and even friends. During this trying time, it’s best to speak to an attorney who will guide you with the kind of compassion your whole family deserves. If you’re considering a divorce in Rhode Island and need to know your options for an optimal result, contact Susan T. Perkins, Family/Divorce Attorney at Law today at (401) 226-0126.