Divorce could be the most distressing and difficult period in your life. Overwhelmed with the emotional challenges and all the things to sort out during a divorce process, it is too easy to miss essential steps to protect yourself. That's why it's so important to make a divorce checklist that will touch all matters arising out of divorces, such as conflict resolution, the division of marital debts and assets, financial issues, and a parenting plan.
Here is a 10-step divorce checklist that will help you go through with a difficult divorce preparation process:
1. Address your conflict in a right way so that it has a potential for positive results.
This could be the most hard-to-fulfil step in your separation checklist as it includes emotions. It is hard to imagine a more conflictual period than the divorce process. Unfortunately, conflict during divorce is inevitable so there's no need to avoid it. The common mistake is to think that a conflict is something destructive. Conflict leads to dialogue. You and your spouse might not agree on every detail. However, you will be able to discuss areas of disagreement. The key is not to ignore the conflict but to address in a safe, productive and efficient way. The best advice would be: listen to and understand what your spouse has to say.
2. Learn as much as you can about the legal aspect of the divorce process in your state.
The more informed you are about your rights and options, the better are your chances to get a pain-free separation. Ask questions like: how much will my divorce cost? How long will it take? What documents should I collect? How much should I expect (to pay) as a child/spousal support? And other important questions.
3. Pull your credit report before and after the divorce process.
One more important step in your divorce checklist is to make sure you are not left to deal with debts you could forget about or even didn't know existed. You will feel more confident if you pull your credit report at the beginning and at the end of your divorce process.
4. Make sure that you get the money that you are supposed to get.
It is a thing that is too easy to miss in your divorce checklist. For example, don't forget about the fact that your ex is to transfer money from his/her retirement account to you. For that, you are going to need a QDRO - Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Make sure you have one before the divorce process is over.
5. Sort out your mortgage and utility bills.
Inform your lender that you have separated with your spouse. It is important to work out a plan to cover mortgage repayments during the property settlement. If you are staying in your home, put all utility bills like phone, internet, electricity, and gas in your name only. If you are moving out, take your name off all the bills. You may need legal advice if there are any bills owing. If you are finding it hard to keep up with your bills, talk to the company and let them know you are experiencing financial hardship.
6. Deal with your and your children's medical issues before the divorce.
It could become one of the most important things in your divorce checklist if you or your children experience health problems. Explore your health insurance options in the process of divorce preparation. In some families, the dependent members may be insured under one of the spouse's health insurance policy which means that the health plan changes after the divorce process is finalized.
7. Make a new will and change the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies.
It is easy to forget about the papers designed for the future when in the present you have to undergo a time-consuming process of separating all your assets. I am sure that you won't be happy about the fact that your ex may inherit everything years after the divorce papers are signed. That's why you should change your will, insurance policies, retirement and investment accounts right after the divorce.
8. Take care of your personal mail and social accounts.
After years of living together, your spouse may know or be able to figure out your passwords. To protect your personal life, create a new email account and change your passwords on your individual email, social media, and online accounts. Track all changes via a private password log. It is also a good step in your divorce checklist to get a P.O. box and have your personal mail (like the letters from your attorney) redirected as soon as you start your divorce process.
9. Make a parenting plan that meets the interests of both parties.
The divorce process is usually hard on children. That's why you need to think over a parenting plan before the beginning of the process. It is a written document that sets out how parents will raise their child after divorce. Focus on describing parenting arrangements such as: how decisions about a child are made (for example, jointly or individually but in consultation with the other parent); how personal information about a child is shared between parents; when each parent will spend time with the child; how other parenting issues may be addressed.
10. Put irreplaceable personal items in a safe place before you start the divorce process.
It is too easy to forget about important personal items like family photos, jewellery, and heirloom or even lose them in the heat of divorce. It is also a bad idea to take care of your personal items after the divorce because you might be not able emotionally to come back to the conflicts with your ex. That's why a safe place for your irreplaceable personal stuff should be organized outside your home and as early as it is possible.
In addition to the divorce checklist, the important advice would be, ask yourself a simple question, what will the divorce process look like when you look back? Most people would prefer to be able to look back at their divorce and say that they did it in a sane, amicable and fair manner. Make sure that after a number of years you are fully satisfied with your behaviour and decisions during the divorce.