10 things NOT to do when Filing for a Divorce
As anyone who’s gone through a divorce can tell you, the process is rarely easy. Tensions run high, and couples often make poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Given the mountain of financial, practical and emotional details that have to be sorted, it’s not surprising so many couples wind up making critical mistakes on the road to divorce. That said there are a number of key things you should do, or more specifically not do, to lessen the chance you’ll regret your decisions later on. Here are the top 10 tips on what to avoid when filing for divorce.
Don’t Assume that You Are Able to Divorce in Colorado if You Recently Moved Here.
If you have not been a resident of Colorado for more than ninety (90) days, you will be required to file for a divorce in the state of your prior residence. Once you have established yourself to be a resident of ninety or more days, you may file in the Colorado county in which you live.
Don’t Increase Your Martial Debt.
Divorce can be expensive. On top of attorney’s fees, you may be required to assume some portion of your martial debt, so don’t assume that any debt you incur during the divorce process will automatically become divisible. Additionally, your household income is likely to decrease, which can present particular challenges and a possible adjustment in lifestyle.
Don’t “Settle” Early
Just because you want out of your marriage immediately doesn’t mean you should forfeit your financial security or your rights to martial assets. Trading your rightful assets for a faster resolution is only going to harm you in the end. Divorce is never painless, but you will be more secure financially if you are patient enough to endure the equitable division of property.
Don’t Forget to Make Copies of ALL Relevant Financial Documents
Make multiple copies of all of your financial documents. This includes, but is not limited to, pension statements, tax forms, brokerage and mutual fund statements, investment information, credit card statements, bank statements and other records of assets or debts. You will need these items during the divorce process. At one of your meetings with your attorney, they will request a balance sheet listing the family’s assets and debts, an accounting sheet of your personal income and expenses and your last tax return. These documents will help your lawyer assess what you will need once separated and what may be available to you.
Don’t Forget About Insurance
Once divorced, you will need to make plans for your own health and dental insurance, if you are currently on your spouse’s plan. Divorce is considered a “qualifying event” under insurance coverage. This will allow you to obtain insurance regardless of when your company’s regular enrollment period might be. You, your attorney, your spouse and their attorney will work together to determine what will make sense in terms of health and dental insurance for any children of the marriage. Please note that while you are still married to your spouse, an illness or accident can change how assets and debt are divided. Also, you may need to make adjustments to your auto and life insurance. You will also need to name new beneficiaries for all insurance policies.
Don’t Forget About the House
Often the person who is awarded custody of the children will have the right to keep house. But keeping the house may not be the best deal for you, personally. If you can’t afford the mortgage, taxes and cost of the upkeep on the house, you may want to reconsider taking it over. You may desire selling the house and dividing the proceeds. Alternatively, you may want to ask for investments and other assets of equal value instead of the house.
Don’t Forget About the Taxes and Other Financial Changes
Your tax structure is likely to change with a divorce. You should evaluate your payroll taxes, property taxes and personal income taxes going forward. It is wise to consult your CPA for advice to ensure that your taxes are being deducted commensurate with your personal needs. Don’t allow yourself the shock of a large IRS bill because you didn’t consider your new tax bracket. Additionally, divorce does not automatically revoke an existing will so you may need to adjust it accordingly.
Don’t Refuse to See a Therapist
Many people are helped by seeing a divorce therapist during and after the process. A good counselor can help you get through the range of emotions that you will experience during your divorce. It is important to get help before you become extremely depressed or angry. A therapist may help you learn techniques for relaxing, talking to your kids about divorce and maintaining a reasonable demeanor in court.
Don’t Take It Out On the Kids
Divorce is particularly difficult on children. All children need a supportive environment to deal with their parents’ divorce. This is true regardless of how old the children are. While it is best to be honest about the divorce, it is better to leave out the sordid details. Using children as a “pawn” for negotiations or as a substitute for therapy is never a good idea and may end up harming you or your kids. Do recognize that divorce is more than just the breakdown of a marriage, it is an event that is happening to the whole family. If you have small children, try to refocus your energy so you can attend their school and after-school events, help them with homework and take them out once in a while to the movies or the zoo. When you can find a way to be more relaxed, they will also get more relaxed.
Don’t Forget to Explore All of Your Options
In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse can get the help of professional – attorneys, divorce coaches and therapists, to work with you both to divide property and manage emotional stress. The majority of jurisdictions have stated that collaborative divorce is more cooperative and less adversarial than traditional divorce. You and your spouse could also choose to attempt resolution of all outstanding disagreements through the use of mediation. Mediation is more of an-ongoing process than a one-time intervention. Additionally, your judge may order you to attempt resolution of outstanding issues through mediation during the course of a traditional divorce.
One Final Note
Putting aside strong emotions in favor of cooperation with your spouse and managing more difficult issues with a calm and level head will definitely pay off in the long run. If you can do this, the more successful you will feel about the outcome. It can be a challenge to not fight over something small because it is representative of your divorce feelings. No one succeeds in those fights. It is best to discuss those feelings with your therapist as opposed to channeling those hurt feeling into the divorce proceeding.