If your marriage is ending and you’re planning to divorce, you’re likely on an emotional rollercoaster of uncertainty, fear, and grief. Your future may seem foggy. You may wonder, “How will we share time with the kids? How am I going to manage financially? Who keeps the home?”
While the divorce process is never easy, you can make the process a lot smoother with solid planning and cooperation. Here, we offer some pre-divorce advice to help you get through one of the most challenging periods of your life.
1. Get Your Finances in Order
Getting divorced almost always means taking a financial hit, even if you have a stable job and an above-average income. Not only are you typically dividing your assets in half, but two households simply cost more to maintain than the one home you’ve been living in with your spouse. Given the additional financial costs, you may be unable to save as much as you used to, which might make you feel financially vulnerable.
Staying afloat financially during and after divorce is even harder if you were the lower-earning spouse. What if you stayed home with the kids for a decade and now need to re-enter the workforce and start supporting yourself?
Regardless of your particular circumstances, reducing financial stress during divorce will be easier if you:
Know what you own and owe. Whether it was you or your spouse who took care of all the bills, bank statements, and tax returns, start studying your financial records and get a clear map of your joint finances before you file for divorce. What is the value of your accounts and other assets? Do you have debt?
Know what you’re spending. My divorcing clients often can tell me exactly what they earn but they don’t know what they’re spending. This is the time to make a budget. How much money will you need each month to maintain your current lifestyle? What may change once you’re separated? Will housing, groceries, transportation, and childcare expenses increase? Having a definite number will help you make a robust plan.
Know your financial rights. If you have children, you and your spouse will have to agree on how you will support them. Additionally, if one spouse has earned substantially less than the other spouse, there may be a need for spousal support (sometimes called alimony) to be paid. The laws regarding child support and spousal support in New York are based on formulas but there are factors that can lead to deviation from those factors. Factors e include the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties any special needs the children may have, earning capacities, and other factors. Reach out to our family law team to find out what to expect regarding child support and spousal support if you divorce.
2. Consider What Should Happen to Your Family Home
Saying goodbye to a beloved home that represents years or even decades of memories can be painful. That’s why so many people try to hold on to the family home at all costs, even if it means carrying an oversized financial burden.
While your home may represent security during an extremely unstable time, consider whether you can afford to keep paying off your mortgage or handle property maintenance with your post-divorce income. Once you add up the numbers, you may realize that allowing your spouse to buy you out or that selling your home may be a wiser choice—and a chance to start afresh.
3. Secure Your Separate Property
As a rule, every asset you acquired during your marriage counts as marital property and is subject to division when you divorce, except for property such as:
- Inheritance and gifts
- Assets you purchased using only funds from before your marriage
- Some insurance policy proceeds
- Property that a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement defined as separate property
If you’re planning to divorce and have separate property, make sure it stays separate. For example, if you inherit a sum of money, keep it in a separate account. If your parents pass and leave you a house, keep it titled in your name alone and avoid using money from a joint account to renovate it. When you combine separate assets with joint assets, you risk having your spouse claim a share in those combined assets.
4. Think about a Parenting Plan
If you have underage children, you and your spouse will have to make crucial decisions, such as:
- How will you tell the children about the divorce?
- Will you split child custody 50-50, or will the child live primarily with one of you?
- How will you work out the parenting schedule during weekends and holidays?
What happens if one of you needs to relocate? Getting advice from a family law attorney and possibly a child specialist will help you answer these questions. The child’s wishes may also play a part in custody arrangements, especially if you have tweens or teens. The older your children are, the more it may make sense to engage them in parenting schedule discussions.
As in other aspects of divorce, negotiating a workable plan with your co-parent is far better than bringing a custody dispute to court. This brings us to the next point.
5. Plan to Cooperate With Your (Soon-To-Be-Ex-) Spouse
A litigated divorce will always last longer, cost more money, and involve a higher degree of conflict than a divorce that was resolved using mediation or the collaborative divorce process. Whenever possible, we strongly recommend working together with your spouse to reach a comprehensive divorce agreement that covers all essential points like property division, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance.
Our experienced family law attorneys can guide you to choose the divorce process that makes the most sense for you and your spouse, help you work through the challenges, and propose solutions that would be acceptable to all parties. If you have underage children, a cooperative divorce is even more important since you want to preserve an amicable relationship with your co-parent.
6. Work With a Competent Divorce Lawyer
A knowledgeable family law attorney may be your most valuable asset in a divorce. A lawyer experienced in non-adversarial divorce can not only advise you on your rights but can help to smooth conflicts and suggest creative solutions if negotiations prove challenging.
Working with a skilled and discerning divorce lawyer is especially important if you and your spouse:
- Have children under 21
- Have complicated financial circumstances
- Are preparing for a high-net-worth divorce
- Own or manage a business together or separately
- Cannot agree on key points, like a parenting plan or dividing the family home
Additionally, if you know your spouse has already hired a divorce attorney, it’s time to hire one of your own.
Our skilled legal team at Vacca Family Law Group can help you work out a practical and straightforward divorce strategy, no matter how complex your case seems to be.
Vacca Family Law Group: Strategic and Compassionate Divorce Planning in New York City
Divorce can be painful and confusing, but a new chapter of your life awaits at the end of the tunnel. At Vacca Family Law Group, we can help you preserve relationships, safeguard your finances, and protect your peace of mind as you navigate divorce.
Call us at 646-798-4740 or reach out online for reliable pre-divorce advice and a consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer in NYC.