Going through a divorce is a heartbreaking experience. Not only must you learn to accept that the life you once pictured is over, but you must also cope with the emotional, legal, and economic effects of your divorce.
If you and your spouse have decided to call it quits, you are going to experience your fair share of challenges. Still, there are things you can do to help you prepare for your Ohio divorce, ease its impact, and successfully start a new chapter of your life. Below, are 15 critical steps to take when faced with an impending divorce or dissolution of marriage.
1. Create a Support System
Getting a divorce – even an amicable one – is far from easy. You may be experiencing a mix of emotions, from sadness and despair to stress and frustration. Make sure you have a support system to help you through the process. This is the time to confide in close family members and trusted friends who can provide their input and guidance both during and after your divorce. It is also a good idea to talk to a counselor or therapist, especially if you are dealing with trauma, such as domestic violence.
2. Create a Plan
Determine what it is you would like out of your divorce. Before discussing or negotiating any details with your spouse, ask yourself these questions:
- What is important to you?
- What type of visitation and custody plans do you want?
- Do you want to remain in the marital home?
- What things would you like to keep, and which items can you part with?
3. Talk to Your Spouse
Communication is key during a divorce. If you have not already, discuss the details of your divorce with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. You can go over the divorce plan you created and determine which areas you both agree on as well as those which need some further negotiation. The more issues you can resolve up-front, the easier and faster the divorce process will be. But be sure not to have these discussions in front of the kids and always try to talk in a neutral place outside of the home. And remember to keep the discussions straightforward, remain calm, and don’t say more than you need to.
4. Talk to Your Children
Divorce can be a sad and confusing time for your children. They usually don’t want the divorce and are worried about what their new life will be like. As their parent, it is imperative to answer your child’s questions and discuss their concerns. Explain what is happening and how things will likely be during and after the divorce. Although, it is best to avoid discussing the details of the divorce with your kids while it is pending. Be sure to reassure them and make sure they feel loved and supported. Because children often feel their lives are being turned upside down during a divorce, it is best to keep things as normal as possible and maintain familiar routines.
5. Don’t Move
Your children will experience significant changes during the split. For the sake of your children, don’t add more uncertainty or chaos to the situation by uprooting their lives and moving. Again, children need a sense of normalcy during this time. Taking them away from the home and community they know and love can take a severe toll on them. Try to stay put until your kids have adjusted to their “new normal.”
6. Figure Out What You Own and Owe
Some income and assets are easy to identify. The marital home, cars, jewelry, and savings accounts are pretty straightforward. Some not-so-obvious assets may include paintings, antique collections, pension plans, tax refunds, and memberships. Just as you should know what you own, you need to know what you owe. The easiest way to do so is to obtain your credit report, where any debt you have will be listed.
7. Gather Important Documents
It is important to gather all financial information. To do so before the first meeting is ideal. Gather information, such as:
- Proof of income
- Tax returns
- Mortgage statements
- Car payments
- Credit card statements
- Savings and investment account statements
- Retirement account statements
- Utility bills
- Daycare costs
8. Set Up a P.O. Box
If you expect to get mail relating to your divorce, such as correspondence from your attorney, it may be a good idea to open up a post office box. This way, you can receive important documents without worrying if your spouse will gain access to them. You can also ask a family member or friend if you could use their address to receive important divorce-related mail.
9. Establish Credit
It is not uncommon for married couples to mostly have joint credit. If you only have no credit in your name, you need to establish some. A spouse may have trouble getting approved for auto or other bank loans because their credit is tied to their ex-spouse. So, opening a credit card in your name alone as soon as possible is crucial to begin establishing your credit. Once you have your own credit card, make sure you pay off the balance in full every month. Remember, your goal is to establish a good credit score, so you can obtain additional credit when needed.
10. Get Health Insurance
If you currently have health insurance through your spouse’s employer, begin exploring other options for your health insurance needs. If you reside in Buckeye State and do not have health insurance through your employer, Medicare, or Medicaid, you can visit the Ohio Department of Insurance website or go to Healthcare.gov to view your available options.
11. Make a Post-Divorce Budget
Figure out how much you will need to cover your expenses. The loss of a spouse’s income contribution can drastically change your finances – and way of life. A post-divorce budget will let you know where you stand financially and help you stay within your new means.
If your spouse handled the family finances, don’t panic. Creating a budget isn’t difficult or time-consuming. Simply list your income and expenses, add them both up, and see where you stand. If you have more income than expenses, you can sigh relief. However, if your costs outweigh your income, you may need to consider cutting down on your expenses or looking for additional income sources.
12. Protect Your Financial Accounts
When a spouse learns their partner is seeking a divorce, it isn’t rare for some to drain savings and other financial accounts to “get back” at their spouse. If you feel there is any chance your partner will resort to this behavior, it may be a good idea to open an account in your name only and transfer half of the balance from the joint account. Make sure you don’t hide the fact that you did this and document everything you spend so you can account for the expenditures during settlement negotiations. You may also consider having any joint accounts frozen. However, we highly recommend speaking to your attorney before taking any action relating to your financial accounts.
13. Close Joint Accounts
If possible, close all joint credit accounts before separating them. This will prevent an angry spouse from running up the charges to get back at you for seeking a divorce. Also, ensure all credit cards and other lines of credit are being paid during your divorce to avoid damaging your credit. Again, we suggest speaking to your attorney before closing or freezing joint accounts.
14. Be on Your Best Behavior
Divorce can make even the most rational, mild-mannered person angry, bitter, and illogical. But it would be best if you kept in mind that the key to success during this process is to work together – and in the best interests of your children. Don’t say or do things that could be considered antagonistic or cruel. Things divorcing spouses should never do include:
- Use or manipulate your kids
- Deny your spouse access to your children
- Blame or put down your spouse to the kids
- Hide assets or income
- Cut off resources to your spouse
15. Hire a Divorce Attorney
Even if you and your spouse are working together, it is always best to hire a divorce lawyer. They will help you fully understand your rights and responsibilities and ensure you take the appropriate actions. A divorce lawyer will help you make educated decisions during the process and look out for your and your children’s best interests. An attorney will also make sure you don’t forget any issues that you need to resolve and help you avoid the many potential pitfalls that can arise during your divorce.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer
At Slater & Zurz, we understand divorce’s profound and sensitive nature. That is why we strive to provide our clients with highly effective legal counsel to secure the best resolution possible. We will be there as your friend and confidant from start to finish and will advocate tirelessly on behalf of your – and your children’s best interests. If you are in the process of contemplating the possibility of a divorce, dissolution of marriage, or legal separation, we want you to know our Akron divorce lawyers at Slater & Zurz are here to help. To discuss your case with a trusted and compassionate attorney, call us at (330)762-0700 to arrange a FREE, confidential consultation.