Sometimes, divorce papers confront a spouse totally unexpectedly.
And sometimes, after months or years of bad chemistry and a relationship turning sour, there is no surprise at all.
It’s in those situations – when you believe that separation or divorce might be coming – that it’s best to prepare for separation and divorce.
If you’re expecting to file for divorce from your spouse, or if you believe your spouse might be preparing to serve you with papers, here’s how to be prepared…
* Obtain originals or make copies of all vital financial records and documents. This includes statements for checking and saving accounts, investment and retirement accounts, real estate holdings, life insurance, tax returns, and other assets. Don’t expect that your spouse will make access to those documents simple.
* Plan how to tell the children. This is best done by both spouses, with no blame assigned, no financial issues discussed, and only the kids’ best interests in mind. Consider hiring a family counselor to assist in the process. It’s important to minimize the shock and maintain normalcy as much as possible.
* If you and your spouse anticipate remaining on good terms once separation has occurred and divorce proceedings are under way, discuss maintenance of bills during the process. Who will live in the residence? How will timesharing be worked out? The children remaining in the residence, if possible, can help keep their lives stable.
* Be familiar with your rights and responsibilities during and after a divorce. Every situation is different and it is a mistake to rely on the advice of your friends who have been through a divorce. While well meaning, those friends are not attorneys and more often than not, give bad advice.
Sometimes, divorce is unexpected. At other times, you can see it coming. Either way, maintaining a sense of normalcy – while protecting your best interests and those of your children – can heighten your chances for the least disruptive outcome.