Getting ready for the Divorce Hurricane. What 6 Preparatory Steps Should You Take?
This week, one week after Hurricane Harvey hung over Houston, the entire State of Florida prepared for Hurricane Irma, the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. People were terrified by the devastation that this powerful storm could bring to their families, friends, homes, possessions, and ultimately, their lives as they knew them. I, too, shared this anxiety as I prepared for a tempest that had the potential to change my life forever. I couldn’t help but think that a couple going through a divorce often faces the possibility of similar distressing losses. Just like in planning for a hurricane, planning for your divorce can diminish the impact that the divorce storm can have on you.
As we drove to the place where we planned to hunker down with my family, I passed a number of billboards that were in tatters. Upon seeing the first, my husband commented, “Client didn’t pay his bill.” But as we passed another soon after, we realized that the billboard owner had made the intelligent choice to shred his boards so that the structures themselves would survive the storm coming, despite that the cost of re-boarding would be expensive. In planning for a catastrophic event, the billboard owner had weighed the definite cost of shredding the billboards against the far greater damage and cost that not doing so might cause. Although we can never be sure if the right decision was made, with predicted winds of over 100 mph, the billboard owner made the best decision during unfortunate circumstances.
Like the billboard owner, when going through a divorce, the better prepared you are, the better you will fare. So what should you do if you know that divorce is inevitable?
- Interview family law attorneys to determine which is best for you. It is important that you know and trust your attorney because you will spend a lot of time with her, sharing the most intimate details of your life.
- While you’re interviewing attorneys, ask about the different ways to approach your divorce. Which approach will work best for you and for your family? Many people don’t know that there are different process options, from hostile litigation to various peaceful alternative dispute resolution approaches. Make sure you understand your options and that you hire the right attorney for the type of process that you want. The qualities that make a great litigator are very different from those that make an awesome collaborator. So, know your options, and retain your attorney accordingly.
- Gather your financial documents. To be an informed decision maker, you must be aware of your financial circumstance. Make copies of as many documents you can. This will save you time and money if you can avoid having to chase down information once you are already separated.
- Budget your money. Even in the best of situations, the divorce process is an expensive one. Save money now, not only for the professionals that you will want to retain, but also for the extra expenses that you will have as you separate one home into two. You should also open your own bank accounts and credit cards, if you haven’t already.
- Think about what you really need. Too often, people caught up in the stress of divorce lose focus on what makes sense or what is fair. But the consequences of such mistakes are manifold. Having unreasonable expectations can cause a divorce to take much longer, which itself can cause even more stress and expense. And I can’t tell you how often I’ve had lunch with a client long after his or her divorce, only for her to confide that she wished that she had been able to hear my advice about what she needed, instead of what she thought she wanted.
- Consider what is best for your family.