Richelle Hampton, author of The Divorce Navigator, looks at practical ways you can prepare for divorce both financially and emotionally.
Standing on the precipice of separation and divorce can be daunting to say the least. Emotionally you feel as though you have just stepped onto the world’s largest roller coaster ride of fear and anger.
Anger is the most commonly recognised emotion in the separation process. It is a known fact that much of the pain and grief with separation is caused by escalating anger. The pain and suffering both parties are experiencing as a result of the relationship breakdown often transforms into a traumatic, costly legal battle.
Don’t allow your anger to take control of the situation. It may seem that you are thinking clearly, but anger and rage do not make you smart – the very opposite occurs. Your higher brain functions do not operate when you are angry and you will be at risk of making decisions that will be harmful to you in the long term, extend your separation process, and cost you more financially and emotionally.
Learning to deal with your anger constructively is one of the most important things to be gained from separation.
What is not as obvious when a relationship breaks down is the enormous amount of fear both parties experience, the emotion beneath anger. Just about everyone involved experiences some level of fear because of the uncertainty surrounding their future, of not having the answers or being in control of their lives – the fear of the unknown.
Facing your fears is an important step. Visualise the worst that can happen, make preparations for it, write down all the things you can do to ensure the situation never develops, take a step forward and know that you will be okay. By understanding that you fear a worst-case scenario you are in the position to make plans to avoid the situation.
If you do not learn to confront your fears regarding separation you will find it extremely difficult to make rational decisions and your financial future may be impacted.
The most important step you can take in your separation process is learn to deal with the emotional aspects of this process in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with the legal issues involved. There is no place in the legal system for negative emotions.
How you act and react during your separation proceedings has a lot to do with how well you come out of it.
To financially prepare for divorce find out where you and your partner have bank accounts, life insurance policies, share certificates, and important documents.
Obtain statements and balances for bank accounts, plus copies of Wills and trusts. The more information you have, the better. If you do not know much about your family’s income, outgoings, and assets, it is important to find out immediately. Keep copies of financial documents in a safe place such as a safety deposit box or with a close relative or trusted friend.
Ensure you understand your financial information and the financial implication of any decisions you make. Costly mistakes can be avoided by seeking the advice of a financial expert such as an accountant or financial advisor. You will be in a stronger position to make informed decisions regarding your financial future.
Keep your expectations realistic as your finances will be tight. Don’t go into separation thinking you are going to be able to maintain your present lifestyle.
If you have joint bank accounts/loans/mortgages, consider changing the account withdrawal procedures so that you both have to sign as joint signatories to withdraw any funds. You might also consider limiting or cancelling any redraw facilities.
Consider opening a bank account under your own name and with a different bank. Have your salary and any financial gifts or inheritances post-separation transferred to this account.
You need to bring yourself up to speed on the costs of running your household. If you haven’t been the one who looks after the monthly outgoings, look through bank statements – see how much you pay in monthly rent or mortgage; check utilities and other regular outgoings.
Begin to assess (or reassess) the job market and brush up on your marketable skills. Start researching courses that will improve employment opportunities or that will further advance your career and earning capacity.
Being educated and prepared will help reduce the stress and fear of the difficult process ahead.
Taken from The Divorce Navigator: How to save tears, time and money, a must-read guide that contains practical advice, help and tips with budgets and checklists for anyone considering separation, about to separate or in the midst of a divorce.