Getting divorced can be a trying time, both emotionally and financially. But it’s important to take the right steps to be proactive and protect your interests.
While the process itself may seem overwhelming, fear not. There are plenty of ways to consciously protect your finances and ensure they thrive through divorce — and beyond.
These five rules will help you stay financially stable before, during and after the split. And remember: Smart financial moves at this point will improve your quality of life for years to come.
Rule One: Ignore Unsolicited Advice
When someone announces their divorce, you can be sure everyone from friends, family, personal trainers, to Uber drivers will line up to dole out unsolicited advice. Unfortunately, their counsel can be uneducated, flawed, self-centered and — more often than not — just plain wrong.
Listening to them can cost you financially, legally and emotionally. Therefore, heed their advice at your peril. Your friends may be great consultants when it comes to your post-divorce makeover, but leave the legal advice to the attorneys.
Rule Two: Choose the Right Lawyer
Once you have drowned out all the amateur voices, go find a pro. Treat it like dating — make sure you go on several “blind dates” with your lawyer before you get serious. Remember, you are employing them! Oddly, many people feel as though they must audition for the lawyer, not the other way around.
Make sure the person has experience with divorces that are similar to yours. Ask if she or he knows the opposing attorney and/or judge. And make sure you feel comfortable with this person – you are going to be working closely with them and will need to be absolutely candid about finances and other personal matters.
Rule Three: Do Your Homework
Divorce is like everything else — hard work wins. Study up on divorce law and what this means for your finances. At this time of personal crisis, the last thing you want to do is miss something important because you were lacking the knowledge.
This knowledge is vital for you to successfully make it through your divorce and on to your bright future. Ask questions. Learn to trust your healthy suspicions. It can be empowering to embrace a new sense of freedom, especially for those who’ve spent years suppressing it.
Rule Four: Log Everything
From the moment you suspect you may be getting a divorce, start logging everything. If anything in your life seems vaguely financially pertinent, write it down.
Learn the financial rules and realities of divorces in your state and then gather all possible information from tax returns, bank accounts, credit card statements and the like – from the moment you even suspect a possible future split.
Take photos of statements and write down account numbers. Start paying attention to what you spend, especially cash transactions. Access your tax returns and make copies.
The more information you can provide to your lawyers up front, the better armed they will be as they assist with your divorce. I also recommend that you start opening credit card accounts in your own name so you can improve your access to cash and ability to purchase necessities.
Rule Five: Pay Attention to your Healthy Suspicions
When making any deal regarding the division of assets, it’s possible that the terms are not quite what they seem. If you sense something, say something. Imagine this: Your ex proactively states that you should keep the house where you raised the children. How kind! That is, if you can afford the upkeep, payments, real estate taxes, etc.
But is he getting a better deal by cutting the mortgage loose? Be smart about what assets you fight for and be sure to honor those natural suspicions you likely have been denying for years. Your intuition can be your most important asset in a divorce.
If something seems wrong during the financial division, listen to your instincts and speak up. Do not let yourself be hurried, bullied or finessed into an unfair settlement.