No one ever expects to get to this point. The anger, deception, frustration and fear have taken over your normally rational mind and you are not thinking clearly. Your friends, family and work place associates are all experts at telling you what to do, yet they have not been through it themselves and only have few facts relevant to your situation. The situation creates it’s own momentum and you are confused and unsure of what to do next. Following are suggestions for getting on track and moving forward.
- Familiarize yourself with appropriate state law. In most cases this means selecting an attorney. Make sure you understand his/her approach (some are ‘fighters’ and others are mediators). Contested divorces take longer and are necessarily more expensive, both from an emotional and financial standpoint and possibly not beneficial if you are in a community property state where the courts typically divide the community equally. Ask for an estimate of fees.
- Make an inventory of both your tangible property and financial possessions. Typically, a good place to start is by reviewing the most recent business and/or personal financial statement requested by your bank; .reviewing your home-owners policy; and your recent tax returns. If business interests are involved you may need to retain valuation analyst along with appraisers for other types of property.
- Secure copies of your most recent bank statements and tax returns. You are entitled to access to and copies of all joint accounts from your bank, and tax returns from your CPA. (If you didn’t get custody of your CPA, you should find a new financial advisor asap to help you with the current financial situation along with budgeting, financial planning, and tax implications.)
- Set up new accounts.
- Create both a pre and post-divorce budget.
- Run a credit report – both before and after the divorce is final.
- Review wills, trusts and beneficiaries. Too frequently, in the heat of battle and the subsequent relief of having survived, this step is overlooked only to cause some very unpleasant future problems. Do you really want your ‘ex’ as your estate administrator? Do not forget to review life insurance policies.
- Set up new trusts for the children.
Finding advisors you are comfortable with and trust is key to navigating your way through what will undoubtedly be the most challenging times of your life. The right fit with your attorney, accountant, insurance agent, and counselor will make all the difference.