Divorce can cost you tens of thousands of dollars and years of time, but it doesn’t have to. The more prepared you are, the better your outcome, the less money you’ll spend and the faster it can come together.
There are so many pieces to divorce including legal, financial and emotional. The legal side of divorce is best managed by an attorney, but the emotional side is better done through therapy. Crying to your attorney about how horrible your ex has been to you will just waste time and money. When creating the “parenting plan” for example, use a family therapist; most attorneys are familiar with it, but it’s not their forte. A family therapist can get you much better results.
Where to start? Discovery. A divorce will start with the sharing of documents, so everyone is on the same page. (If you think there are critical financial document missing consider engaging a forensic accountant to follow the money trail). If you’re like us, you don’t even know what questions to ask. One thing you can do is to start by looking at your life and thinking, “Here’s where I am today, but next year I’ll need a new place to live, the kids will be sharing time, the house will need to be sold…”. If you can start identifying what will need to change, that will help your attorney negotiate.
Most states have everything you need to know about deadlines and the necessary paperwork right online. It’s free, so start there. You can put in the search-bar, “How long will it take to get divorced?” and you’ll see answers.
Since the finances will come into play, pull together tax returns for the last few years and start tracking what you spend on household bills, healthcare, etc. You can set up a simple spreadsheet or even hand-ledger. You’ll need to put this all on the state affidavit forms (2-6 pages depending on level of detail you have to submit) eventually, and it’s OK to have holes for now. But doing this on your own will save hours of attorney time and money for you.
If we can encourage you to do one thing in the divorce process, it’s to avoid litigation. Going to trial is toxic for everyone and it wastes time and money. Not only do you still have to complete discovery, but you’ll also need to prepare your case and the case against opposing counsel. No one ever really wins in litigation and the courts just want your case off their docket.
You make think your attorney loves racking up billable hours, but mostly they want a good outcome for you. The better prepared you are in terms of paperwork and expectations, the better your outcome will be for you and for everyone else involved.
Through the process of our own divorces, Barb Hazelton and Jo Briggs learned more than they ever needed or wanted to know. Through their friendship, shared experiences, and connections through navigating their own divorces, they created this video series. They've been where you are and they hope Single Process can make it easier for you by connecting you to their resources.