6 Things to Have on Your Pre-Divorce Checklist

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It is torture not knowing whether to stay married or get divorced – that’s probably why you’re here. This checklist will take you through 6 important steps you need to consider before getting a divorce. This Pre-Divorce Checklist assumes that you and your money are safe. It is not intended for situations where there is a history of domestic violence or where you suspect your spouse is hiding money. 

#1 – To relieve your angst, you need to do a deep dive into the top 3 intolerable problems in your marriage. 

These problems might include your spouse habitually having sex with other people, being extremely irresponsible with money, failing repeatedly at drug rehab, or having an incurable personality disorder. Once you have your list, you then need to determine whether your marriage can withstand those problems. In other words, are you able to accept the situation and change yourself to accommodate that reality?  As you know, you cannot change the other person. You have already tried that.   

Sometimes, the problems you perceive as “intolerable” really aren’t that bad … compared to starting over. If your spouse is not ambitious, but is a great parent, maybe let it go. If your spouse only helps a little bit around the house, maybe some help is better than no help (which is what you will get if you divorce). If you used to chat into the night while looking into each other’s eyes, and now you only talk about your work and your kids, that is often a fixable problem and not the end of the world.   

If your marital problems are intolerable and unfixable, you should consider divorce. Sooner is usually better than later. Intolerable and unfixable problems only get worse with time. If your problems are intolerable but fixable – and you and your spouse love each other and are willing to work on your problems – do not get a divorce until you have tried everything to save your marriage.

#2 – Make a detailed list of expenses for you and your children. Both present and projected. 

If you have decided that divorce is the best option, then it’s time to get a hold of what it costs to meet your expenses. There are many online expense worksheets. This list will help you map out your future financial plan and will be the key document necessary to work through your child support and alimony settlement – whether you are the payer or the receiver. 

You don’t want to skimp on your expenses; but you don’t want to pad them, either. Be reasonable. Your expense list should be relatively in line with your current lifestyle.

#3 – Run a credit report

Running a credit report is essential if you choose to end your marriage. Why is this? Because you will be on your own financially. You need to understand how you will appear to potential lenders and landlords in terms of credit worthiness. 

Not only will your credit report show your credit score, but it will bring to light any debts in your name that you may not be aware of. If you see anything suspicious – such as debts you weren’t aware of or debts connected to an address that is not yours – you need to investigate. Start with the creditor and the credit bureaus. If it looks like it is your spouse who opened accounts in your name without authorization, you need to call an attorney.

#4 – Review your most recent tax returns 

If you do not already have a good understanding of your family finances, and you are considering divorce, you need to do a thorough review of your last three years of tax returns. The best plan is to hire a Certified Public Accountant to review these tax returns with you. 

Pre Divorce Checklist - Decision Making Sign - Robin Graine Divorce Coach

Tax returns provide information about real estate holdings, income, investments, loans, bank accounts, trusts, partnerships, and small businesses. They are not usually a good source of information, however, for retirement assets. Similar to the credit check, tax returns will also help you see what you are working with in terms of debts, and they assist in uncovering suspicious financial activity by your spouse. Tax returns also help give you an overview of your family finances, with the exception of retirement assets (unless you are already retired and are collecting on, or drawing from, your retirement).

#5 – Determine the fair market value (FMV) and equity value of your home

It is important to determine the fair market value (FMV) and equity value of your home and other real estate that you own. The best way to determine FMV is to have your house professionally appraised. Once you have the FMV, subtract the current mortgage balance + any lines of credit that you have against the house. That will give you your equity value.  

Why is it important to know what the equity value is? Because the equity value represents the amount of money that is tied up in your real estate. That means that, if you are short on cash, you may need to either sell the house or have your spouse refinance the house in his or her name. 

If you or your spouse refinances, you can usually get a new mortgage that also allows for enough extra cash to buy out the other spouse’s agreed equity interest in that real estate. This is called a “cash-out refinance”

If either spouse will be refinancing the house in his/her individual name, or you plan on selling your house to a third-party buyer, you will need to factor in the refinance fees or realtor commissions. These fees are huge. If you think you might be getting divorced, and you want to either sell the house or refinance it in your name, you will want to know: (1) How much will my costs be? (2) Will I qualify for a mortgage on my own? and (3) What does the real estate market look like in my community? Get help. Interview and get advice from at least three experienced lenders or realtors. 

#6 – If you have children, determine if it worse for them to observe a rotten marriage or spend their childhood in two different homes

You may be thinking that staying in your marriage – no matter how unloving that relationship may be – will be better than divorce and a more comfortable situation for your children. Although this may sound like the best option for now, you need to think long-term. You need to think about what your children are absorbing and learning about relationships and conflict resolution when they are living in such a negative environment. To add to these problems, children who live in homes where there is a lot of yelling and verbal abuse, often end up with emotional and behavior disorders that disrupt their education and friendships.

Your job as a parent is to create well-adjusted adults that have a shot at happiness. Sometimes, good parenting decisions are unpleasant for everyone in the family. That doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t enforce the family rules, make your kids go to school, etc. Life is tough. Those who work hard and learn to deal with short-term uncomfortable situations, however, always do better in the long run. 

Staying in a rotten marriage teaches your children that it is okay to accept low levels of happiness, to let people walk all over you, and to live like an ostrich sticking your head in the sand and not resolving your problems. Children are like sponges. You are their role model. Always remember that.

Imagine Life with Peace of Mind

Imaging having clarity and relief instead of being confused and angry. Imagine feeling optimistic about your future instead of feeling stuck in an unhappy marriage. It’s all possible.

Robin Graine, JD, CDFA

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Posted by Robin Graine, JD, CDFA – Divorce Coach | Mediator | Problem Solver

This blog and it’s materials have been prepared by robingraine.com for informational purposes and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as legal advice or advice of any other kind or nature. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client, coach-client, mediator-client relationship. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

Robin Graine, JD, CDFA – Divorce Coach & Mediator

Robin Graine, JD, CDFA® is a veteran divorce coach and divorce mediator I help people determine whether their marriage is worth saving or not. I have been in the divorce business as a coach, lawyer, mediator, and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst for nearly 20 years. I know how hard this can be. I am also a divorced mom and had to rebuild my life after being a stay at home mom for many years.

6 Things to Have on Your Pre-Divorce Checklist