Whether you’ve been through a messy divorce before, are the product of one, or have seen friends and family go through it, you know how hard it can be for families. If you want a clean split without drawn-out litigation and endless arguments, here are a few things you can do.
Know what’s rightfully yours.
The lines can be somewhat blurred here, as couples often make purchases jointly. Additionally, if only one spouse works, property division may lean in that person’s favor.
“Typically, property division is based on whether something is a marital asset or not,” explains an article from Milwaukee divorce firm, Karp Iancu, Attorneys at Law. “Some things, like debt gained before marriage or an inheritance, will not be split between the spouses. Something that was purchased during the marriage, however, should be split equally. For example, while you may not have purchased the family car, you may still be eligible to receive part of its worth.”
To avoid being shafted by your spouse’s competitive attorney, define what’s rightfully yours and to what you have a legal claim. Your attorney can help you define the lines here and identify the correct divisions of assets.
Keep the kids out of it as much as possible.
Divorce is often made messier because of emotional implications for those involved. As difficult as this is for you, it’s probably twice as bad (if not more) for your kids. Their whole world is being split in two, and using them as bargaining chips or ignoring their emotional needs will only make the devastation worse.
Sarah Hosseini of Scary Mommy, a product of divorce, says that watching her parents handle emotional breakdowns poorly was one of the most emotionally damaging things for her. “Break down to your family, friends and therapist privately…but don’t have those sobbing events in front of your kids,” she advises in an article.
She also urges parents to learn consistent co-parenting so they can approach parenting on a united front. And most importantly, parents should never bad-mouth their ex in front of the kids.
“Children idolize their parents — they love their parents unconditionally,” she says. “However, when one parent bad-mouths the other parent, it creates an even more confusing and toxic experience for the child.”
As you put the emotional needs of your children first, you’ll be able to keep much of your heartache and emotional stress in check. You’ll hold it together for your family and avoid messy blowouts and overly drawn-out therapy sessions.
Seek financial and planning advice from the beginning.
The financial and tax planning aspects can be two of the most difficult parts of finalizing a divorce. Your financial responsibilities are about to change, and you don’t want to be hit with a bad deal.
Jane Quinn of CBS News strongly recommends getting professional advice from a tax expert before litigation.
“There are lots of [tax] tricks,” Quinn writes. “For example, say that the child lives with the wife, who takes the child to day care so that she can work. The husband might pay her an amount equal to the day-care cost in the form of temporary alimony…The alimony is taxable income to the wife, but she can offset it by taking the child-care tax credit on her return.”
A financial expert can also help you get your finances in order from the start. They’ll help you determine what you need to make to support yourself, how much alimony to pursue, where property and assets should be divided, which investments you should take, and more.
Don’t hyper-focus on being the victor.
Too often, spouses fighting over a clear division get so focused on winning or taking vengeance on their spouse that they don’t always get the best deal.
“People are really blinded by the power of the win,” Carrie Rollings Meynet, a real estate agent who often consults on divorce cases told U.S. News. She has often seen competitive spouses overpay on legal fees in order to win more property, demeaning the value of the assets they win.
Additionally, focusing on triumphing over your spouse can be emotionally damaging. It’s hard to be happy with the outcome of the split if you can only be happy as the winner—this is not a realistic expectation, and you’ll be disappointed.
Getting your emotional and financial house in order are two of the most essential steps in a clean split from your spouse. This is a difficult time, but it doesn’t need to drag on for months. Be smart, but realistic as you work with your attorney to finalize the divorce and move on with your life as soon as possible.