Let’s talk about getting a divorce.
Lest you think that all is not well in the House of Brick, I need to emphasize this post is not for personal reasons. The Brick and I have been married 30-plus years, and in spite of the occasional riffle, things are going well. (Andy’s note. This post isn’t about my wife and I either. There will be a follow-up post on why you should stay married.)
The national marriage average, though, is not looking so good. Based on DivorceRate.org, the current divorce rate for first marriages in America is 41%, and second marriages 60%. Third marriages are a stunning 73%! And if you marry between ages 20-24, chances are better than 1 in 3 that your union will not last.
Ouch. It’s especially uneasy if your own marriage experience has been rocky. And other people’s opinions about your troubles will hit all over the map. (J.D. Roth, who announced his impending divorce on his blog, Get Rich Slowly, found this out the hard way.)
First and foremost, make a serious effort to save your marriage. (I encourage you to try — it’s worth it!) But if you’re thinking that divorce is looming on your personal horizon, here are some tips, from a single friend who has had time to think on it. (She was married for ten years, with a son, before she divorced back in the mid-1990s.)
Before you file divorce papers:
*Make sure you know your current net worth. That includes real estate, bank and retirement accounts, savings bonds, etc. Include future possibilities like pensions and Social Security. (Yes, you are often entitled to claim your soon-to-be-ex’s amount on these. Sometimes that eligibility hinges on how long you’ve been legally married. Check with them to be sure.)
*Make sure you know your liabilities. Who do you owe, and how much? It doesn’t matter whether you signed on the dotted line; if you’re married, you’re responsible for his or her debts.
*Are possessions in both your names? Or yours, at least. This is especially important for a vehicle you plan to keep on driving. Make copies of important paperwork for safekeeping. (My friend sent them to her sister to hold.)
*Open an account, just in your name. Hide some cash there. My source recommended $5000, but as little as $500 will give you some security.
After you file for divorce:
*Notify everyone you have joint accounts with that you are divorcing. Sure, they’ll be frozen — and that limits your access to needed funds. (Thus the importance of a separate account just in your name!) But, and this is especially important — they can’t be stripped by your ex, either.
*Get a good lawyer. (Ask for references, or get advice from people you trust.)
*If you have children together, get your temporary custody papers done as soon as possible — otherwise, the other person could take your child and head out of state. (Maybe you should get these done before you file.)
*Shield your children as much as possible. “In other words,” my friend says, “Don’t talk negative about him — even if he is a royal jerk.” Your ex will already be angry and/or frustrated. Talking trash about them is insulting, and won’t encourage them to cooperate while you finalize the process.
*Don’t bore your friends, family and fellow workers with all the details. Conduct yourself with dignity and good sense, and you’ll come out of this difficult time looking like the classy person you are.
This post is by staff writer Cindy Brick. Cindy is a quilting expert with several published books on the subject and has also had many published articles on a variety of subjects. You can visit her business website at CindyBrick.com or visit her personal blog.