Divorce can do much more than officially shred a marriage certificate. The dissolution can create emotional bleeding and the financial impact can be equally destructive.
There are ways, however, to get through these difficult times and experience an emotionally healthy divorce while defusing the anger. If the couple can pull this off, they increase their chances of not falling into the same trap again.
Here are eight divorce survival tips:
1. Handle outstanding debt.
Notify credit card companies of the pending divorce and ask them to freeze your joint accounts until the balances are paid off and closed or the balance is transferred to individual accounts.
During the negotiations, you’ll want to decide who will pay off any debts such as credit cards and car payments. You want this agreement in writing in case the ex-spouse fails to honor it.
2. Gather documents.
Make sure you have copies of all the important documents such as tax returns, bank and investment account statements, W-2 forms, mortgage and home equity documents.
In addition to investments, tally other assets such as jewelry, antique furniture, coins and heirlooms. Don’t forget about the contents of a safe deposit box.
3. Determine your expenses.
Create a detailed list of all your expenses. It’s easy to overlook some costs so don’t rush it. As you begin negotiations, you’ll need to have a realistic picture of what it will cost to live.
4. Consider a collaborative divorce.
The aim of a collaborative divorce is to break up in a way that strives to take into account the highest priorities of each spouse and do so without court time.
With this arrangement, the husband and wife each have an attorney, but the lawyers work together and share all information. In addition, each spouse ideally has a divorce coach, who helps with emotional issues and gets the process moving when there are disagreements.
The couple shares a neutral financial specialist, such as a certified public accountant, certified divorce financial analyst or certified financial planner, who sorts out the money issues. Also in the mix is a child specialist, who provides the kids with a voice during the process.
5. Avoid a contested divorce.
Regardless of how you proceed, it’s vastly better to work out a custody arrangement for the children without involving the courts. When a divorce is contested, a court will decide the custody arrangement. Also, don’t pit the children against the other parent.
6. Write everything down.
Don’t assume that you and your former partner will remember what you’ve agreed to without writing everything down. This is true even if the breakup is relatively friendly.
Also agree on what happens if one person doesn’t honor an agreement. What will the consequences be?
7. Understand that what you are feeling is normal.
Many people experience a rush of emotions that can initially include intense anger and shock. These feelings may later lead to despair and fear. Don’t dwell on the past. Focus on what you can actually control now.
8. Consider hiring a therapist.
A therapist can help you emotionally survive a failed marriage and move on with your life. If you have children, having a therapist or psychologist help your children is important because they can be traumatized by the breakup and fearful of losing one or both parents’ love.