If divorce is coming, you’re likely feeling some level of dread at navigating this uncharted territory. It may seem like you are going into it blindly. How much can you know ahead of time since the experience differs for every couple?
It’s important to know that at their core, every Chicago divorce involves the same steps to reach a resolution. The process can also be simplified with informed preparation. Below are actionable steps you can start taking now to help ensure the most efficient divorce possible – regardless of whether you are splitting amicably.
Seek High-quality Legal Advice
Dividing assets is complicated, as is navigating spousal support, custody and child support, and unique family law issues, such as business valuation, a spouse’s military status, and the possibility of hidden assets. Hiring an attorney will ensure that you not only know what to expect but also have someone on your side protecting your rights and best interests.
Your attorney may recommend other professionals to assist in resolving your matter equitably. For example, a financial planner for help creating a post-divorce budget (more on that shortly) and a long-term financial plan. A forensic accountant can help uncover hidden assets if necessary. Your divorce can affect the rest of your life, so it’s important to have qualified professionals on your side.
Get Organized to Set Yourself Up for Success
It’s never too early to start taking inventory of your property and debts, writing everything down you can think of. Pull any relevant financial records and start saving them in a folder – pay stubs, tax returns, evidence of any and all assets, and statements for all debts, loans, and credit cards. This information will be useful when preparing for a consultation with an attorney.
You may also want to establish your post-separation bank accounts and lines of credit and get a new and confidential mailing address, such as a P.O. box.
Create a Post-divorce Budget
Before dividing your marital assets and debts, thinking critically about your needs after a divorce is important. You can create a post-divorce budget and think into the long term, such as your retirement and paying for your kids’ college education. Identify which assets will help ensure your financial security. Your attorney can prioritize keeping those assets for you. If your spouse’s salary largely supports your needs, you may require support from your spouse post-divorce. If so, you should begin to analyze how much support you may need and for how long. Then, when it comes time to negotiate the divorce agreement, you and your attorney will have discussed your needs and priorities and will be ready to work out an arrangement that is best for you.
Know that a Quick Settlement Is Not Always the Best
Your spouse may be pressuring you to sign the divorce agreement. It may seem like a good idea to get it over with. However, signing too quickly could have a negative effect on your financial future. First, review the complete listing of your marital assets and their value. Based on this information, you and your attorney can discuss whether any settlement offer is fair. A good settlement should provide you with a place to live, liquid cash, money for retirement, and little to no debt.
Avoid Letting Your Emotions Cloud Judgment
From day one, try to stay calm. It’s easy to let your anger at your ex overrule your good judgment during the divorce process. But the conflict will drag your divorce, which will result in more time and legal fees. Decide on your priorities and what you’re willing to negotiate.
A divorce is a life-changing event, but it doesn’t mean you have to change everything about your life. Set aside time to enjoy your favorite hobbies, spend time with friends, and remember to relax when you can. Our Chicago divorce attorneys at Petrelli Previtera are committed to helping every client achieve a better future.