Your Spouse Just Left You? Do These 10 Things Right Now
You might not think divorce can happen to you, but statistics show otherwise.
Researchers estimate that 41% of all first marriages end in divorce, with the United States being home to the sixth-highest divorce rate in the world. Whether your first (or second) marriage is ending, the important thing to know is that there are steps you should take immediately if your spouse tells you he or she wants a divorce.
Here are 10 things you should do right away to protect yourself if you’ve been surprised with the split news.
1. Hire an attorney.
Your attorney is the most important professional on your divorce team.. Look for an experienced family law attorney who understands your goals and makes you feel comfortable. This person and his or her firm needs to be the right fit for your particular circumstances and needs. It’s a good idea to schedule consultations with attorneys to find the one who’ll represent you the best.
2. Find a divorce coach.
A divorce coach can help empower you to make the best possible decisions for you and your family during and after your divorce. These special coaches guide you through the divorce process with an objective opinion while providing you with helpful information, strategies, and emotional support, which you wouldn’t necessarily pay your attorney to provide.
3. Locate your important documents.
Conduct a thorough review of your household files and make copies of everything. You’ll want to look for things like tax returns, bank statements, investment statements, retirement account statements, mortgage documents, wills, credit card statements, life insurance policies, Social Security documents, and so on. Also, don’t forget to make electronic copies of any data on your computer. Change passwords to any email addresses or bank accounts that you own.
4. Find an accountant.
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) will be an invaluable member of your divorce team. A CPA can handle many of the financial matters of your case—calculating the net worth of both parties and helping you decide on numbers. Typically, your lawyer can help you find the right accountant if you don’t already have a CPA who’s experienced in divorce cases. For more complicated matters, we usually use forensic accountants when income needs to be determined or there are businesses.
5. Take a household inventory.
Make a list of the major items you and your spouse own together. That list should include art, furniture, jewelry, cars, boats, and appliances. Do you have safe deposit boxes or storage units? Don’t forget to inventory those as well.
6. Know your numbers.
You don’t want to be in the dark concerning your personal and joint finances. Start pulling together your records. For example, review your bank statements from the past year and your credit report. Record your monthly bills and household expenses. How much income are you are your spouse each bringing in? Make copies of both of your pay stubs or business statements, if either you or your spouse or self-employed.
7. Start building your future.
Think about your current employment situation. Maybe you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for the past few years, and now you need to think about re-entering the workforce. This is where a career counselor could help suggest some viable options. In addition, take a good look at your credit history. If you don’t have credit cards in your name, apply for them now. Begin building a nest egg as well; we recommend working toward saving three months of expenses in the bank. You’ll also want to work on projected budgets, and whether you’ll need housing; your financial advisor can help here.
8. Talk to a trusted third party.
There’s the legal side of a divorce, and then there’s the emotional one. Your attorney and financial advisor can help through the legal and financial process, but who’ll help you deal with all the emotions you’re feeling? Divorce is a trauma that you should navigate with a therapist, counselor or clergyperson. You can’t move forward without letting to of some of the baggage you’re carrying around.
9. Find a support system.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You shouldn’t go through a divorce alone. Although you need a professional team working on your behalf, you also need friends and family to help you out where and when you need it at home. In addition, consider joining a divorce support group to hear other people’s stories, and to learn about what shape your new life could take.
10. Put yourself and your kids first.
There are going to be so many things to do logistically at this time, but don’t forget your children, if you’re a parent. Divorce can cause repercussions on not only us, but our kids as well. Talk to them and really listen to their concerns and questions. If they’re in need of extra support, enlist the help of a therapist or clergyperson.
Your Takeaway: Don’t Allow Your Emotions to Drive You to Inaction
This is an emotional and difficult time in your life. Sometimes it’s human nature to want to put our head in the sand and pretend like nothing has happened. But, for your sake, and the sake of any children you may have, you have to take action now to protect yourself and your future. Review this list and start making a proactive plan to design your new life going forward.
If you need help with a family law matter, our attorneys at Smedley Law Group can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.