Most couples plan for a wedding—the day they will say “I do” and pledge their love to each other in front of friends and family members. Hardly anyone wants to divorce. Almost all couples get married with the intention of being together as a couple forever.
Nobody plans for a divorce, but the reality is that couples should. Given that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, there is only a 50/50 chance yours will survive. Even if you have been married 20, 30, or even 40 years, there is no guarantee that your marriage will stand the test of time. Gray divorces—divorces that occur when a person is over the age of 50—are on the rise, creating financial issues as couples plan to retire.
Divorces tend to come unexpectedly. You may think you are happily married, only to have your significant other drop a bombshell on you. You may have been married for several decades and think there is no chance of getting divorced now. While it may seem unromantic to plan for divorce, keep in mind that 2 million couples in the United States divorce every year.
Therefore, the possibility of divorce should always be on your mind, whether you have been married three years or 30 years. But what can you expect before, during, and after the process?
Divorces typically have three phases. First, you file the paperwork, which can be a daunting process in itself. Next is the discovery phase, which involves researching the financial situations of both you and your spouse. Finally, there is the disposition, which ideally will occur through a settlement decided by mediation or arbitration. In some contentious divorces, though, disposition involves a courtroom trial, which is usually costly and time-consuming.
Divorcing? Here is What to Consider
Before you meet with a lawyer and take the plunge to end your marriage, it is important that you know what to expect. It is not an easy process, and you do not want to walk into a lawyer’s office unprepared. Do your due diligence first by taking the following into consideration:
- Is this the right choice? A divorce is not something to joke about. A divorce will end your marriage and change your life significantly. It will also affect the lives of your children, if you have any. Is your marriage that bad that divorce is the only option? Is there abuse or cheating involved? Think about the good parts of your marriage and compare them with the negatives. Discuss the situation with your partner. Perhaps counseling or therapy may be helpful before deciding to pull the plug on your marriage.
- Research, research, research. You may not be a legal professional, but you should still understand the laws surrounding divorce. Each state is different, so if you do decide to divorce, make sure you follow the laws. You have to be a resident of your state for a certain period of time. In some cases, you may need to be separated for a period of time, as well. Make sure you understand all the requirements before seeing a lawyer.
- Determine personal goals. A marriage is a partnership. Once you end that marriage, you are on your own. What do you want to accomplish as a single man or woman? Do you want to go back to school or get a better-paying job? Are you focused on retirement? Perhaps you want to save up for college for your child. Think about your personal and financial goals and come up with a plan to accomplish them on your own after a divorce.
- Think about the children. If you have kids, you will want to think about how their lives will change following a divorce. Are you considering full custody? Will 50/50 custody work best? Think about their best interests and determine an arrangement that will work best.
- Get organized. A divorce requires an immense amount of paperwork. Your lawyer will need a good look at your financial situation. This means having copies of bank statements, credit card statements, pay stubs, tax returns, mortgage documents, retirement accounts and other financial documents readily available. Remember, lawyers are paid by the hour, so if your divorce attorney has to spend time locating the necessary documents, you will have to pay.
- Decide what to do with the marital home. Many people feel an attachment to the marital home, but think about the big picture. If children are involved, keeping them in the home is a good idea for stability reasons. However, a house comes with many expenses in addition to the monthly mortgage payment. There is also insurance and upkeep to consider. Can you afford to keep the home after the divorce? If not, then it may make more sense to downsize and pay less for a smaller home.
- Hire the right attorney. Each attorney is different. Some are more personable than others. Some have more experience. Interview several lawyers and find one who will work best for you.
- Take time for you. Divorces are stressful. Make sure to take time for yourself and do things you enjoy.
Exploring Your Options
A divorce is not an easy undertaking. It is time-intensive, expensive, and stressful. In fact, it will likely be one of the most stressful events you will ever go through, and should be avoided at all costs. However, not all marriages have fairytale endings.
Staying in a stressful marriage is unhealthy and unhappy. Life is short. You can find happiness after divorce, but it helps to be prepared. A divorce is a major decision, so it needs to be thought out fully.
If you are considering divorce, contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation. With three decades of experience in the field of family law, he can answer your questions and help you reach your goals. Give his office a call today at (954) 346-6464.