Divorce is a three-legged stool. Neglect one leg, and you will find yourself in a heap on the floor! Here is what you need to know to arm yourself and create the best post-divorce outcomes.
Why is divorce one of the most difficult processes a person can go through in a lifetime? A big part of the answer is that it is extremely complex. Every marriage is different, and every couple that arrives in my office has its own unique mix of years together, belongings, kids and pets. But at the end of the day, untangling all that follows the same blueprint.
The easiest way to illustrate this is by thinking of divorce as a stool with 3 legs: legal, financial and mental. Neglect one, and you find yourself in a heap on the floor. Here is how I break it down for my clients.
Leg 1: Legal Aspects
What are the divorce laws in your state (in case of most of my clients, that would be Texas)? What are the filing requirements, typical timelines and documents needed? If kids, property division or alimony/spousal support are at stake, pay close attention. Understanding your legal rights and having a map for the legal process won’t eliminate the stress and the pressure, but it will demystify the system and help you prepare.
Leg 2: Financial Aspects
The biggest question on the mind of most people going through a divorce is, “Will I have enough money to live on after all the documents are signed?”
Depending on your circumstances, the financial side of the divorce might mean dividing bank accounts, investments, pension plans, company ownership interest, royalties or mineral rights. It may also require a close inspection of past expenses and projection of your needs into the future. In some cases, a forensic accountant’s expertise may be required to untangle complex financial instruments or track down hidden assets.
Splitting up finances and rebuilding them on the other side of divorce is a process that takes deep expertise in financial planning and taxation. Be sure that you are working with a trusted financial professional who can help you make good decisions.
Leg 3: Mental Aspects
Most couples opt for divorce because their living situation has become unbearably stressful. Unfortunately for them, things are about to get much worse before they get better. Even the more amicable and collaborative divorces have difficult conversations, tough decisions and compromises that you will have to live with.
My advice? Build a support network and create time and space to recharge, recover and process. Acknowledge that you are dealing with a stressful event of a lifetime. Work with the communications coach within your collaborative divorce group and/or a therapist. If young children are involved, be sure to meet their needs and give them tools to cope.
The Anatomy of a Divorce Process
Going through a divorce requires you to pay attention to all three aspects of the process: legal, financial and mental. In my experience, it is unreasonable to expect that a single professional (typically, your attorney) be an expert in all three. I recommend that my clients begin with the understanding of the “expertise bucket” they need. Based on that, they can build a professional team to support them and create the best possible outcomes for their family.
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