What steps do you take before finalizing a divorce? While the stats may vary year to year, divorce among every demographic is very common. Many couples are quick to call it quits, even though divorce is supposed to be a last-ditch decision for those in a troubled marriage.
Huffington Post cites communication problems as the number one reason marriages fail. Other factors that greatly impact a higher divorce rate include lack of commitment, finances, unmet expectations, and inability to resolve conflict.
In Canada over 40% of marriages end in divorce, and while it can be extremely stressful for all involved, there are steps you should take to help ensure the process is beneficial to both parties.
Steps to Take Before Finalizing a Divorce
1. Don’t Rush Life-Altering Decisions
If you and your spouse have decided that a divorce is necessary, it’s tempting to just want it over with as quick as possible. Long, drawn-out divorce settlements aren’t fun for anyone and sometimes they can take months or even years. It’s important to remember that you can’t rush through a divorce, because you’ll be making very important life-altering decisions about your future.
Whether you have kids or not, those decisions will impact you for the rest of your life. Think seriously about each one, weigh the pros and cons, ask advice, and ask questions to avoid making any snap irrational judgments you’ll regret five years down the road.
2. Consider What’s Best If You Have Children
If you have children involved in your divorce, you must remember to tread lightly. It’s important to discuss with your spouse when and how you’ll tell your children together, because it can have a lasting impact on a child’s emotional state, self-esteem, and performance in school. While keeping them in the dark isn’t a great option either, you have to consider what’s best for them. Even if you are angry with your spouse, it’s important you approach the subject with your child as neutral as possible.
Family psychologist Kristen Wynns recommends aiming to keep their lives as normal as possible, including their living arrangements and everyday schedules. Discuss all options with your spouse first in private to avoid further hurt and confusion—you never want to make them feel like an inconvenience.
3. Hire a Separate Family Lawyer From Your Spouse
Even if you think you and your spouse have everything civilly figured out, hire a separate family lawyer. It can be tempting to use the same person to either cut costs or reduce friction, but it’s not a good idea. “Once you start down the road of divorce, what is in your best interest is no longer necessarily in your spouse’s best interest “. You’ll want to hire someone who can give you individual, unbiased legal counsel and negotiate wisely on your behalf. At Bykov Law (bykovlaw.com) we can provide you with full spectrum of family law services that can be tailored specifically to your needs.
4. Attempt Mediation First
Before litigation, mediation usually occurs when couples meet with a third party to negotiate appropriate terms of the divorce. Some couples are so angry at each other they think civil mediation is impossible, but it should still be the first priority. Keep the positives in mind—negotiation can help to provide a cost-efficient outcome and prevent an all-out battle in the courtroom. Divorce mediator Brian James explains, “You work through the issues you need to resolve with a neutral party so the two of you can end your marriage as amicably and cost-effectively as possible.”
5. Be Financially Prepared
If you think you are drawing near to a divorce with your spouse, start setting aside money as soon as possible. Lawyer fees can significantly add up, especially if your divorce process takes a while. It’s important to plan ahead and be prepared, just in case unexpected expenses or family emergencies occur during the process. A financial analyst can help you analyze your marriage assets, which is especially important if you’re worried about your spouse withholding financial accounts from you.
6. Update Your Will
During the divorce process, you’re life will be in a constant state of transition. Before you even begin to go through it, you should update your will. Take the necessary steps to ensure only the right people benefit from your death—such as your children or close family members. It could take months or even years for your settlement to be final, and if something tragic happened during that time, you’re soon-to-be ex-spouse would be your power of attorney. If you were to pass away or become ill, they would have access to your life insurance policy and 401k.
7. Keep the Peace Throughout the Entire Process
It’s easy to become frustrated, and many couples often have disagreements, but making irrational decisions because you’re angry can only hurt your situation. If you think it might get ugly, prepare yourself ahead of time so you can be smart in your reactions toward your spouse.
In addition to keeping the peace, remember threatening to deny or limit visitation rights to your children is never a good idea, as the truth always comes out. If you’re on the receiving end, avoid retaliation against your spouse and remember, in most cases, you cannot be denied the right to see your kids. Custodial threats and/or verbal abuse should be discussed with your lawyer.
In order to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family, you should remember these seven tips before getting a divorce. Of course, there are many circumstances surrounding divorce and every case is different, but always seek legal counsel as soon as possible to avoid making any costly decisions you regret later on down the road.