Deciding to file for divorce is a life-altering step. With just one seemingly simple action, you are dictating the future of your finances, lifestyle and even children. Women especially will then face a society unwilling to support their new-found freedom. No matter if the husband announces he has “found someone else,” or if the wife decides to leave an abusive relationship; the path to divorce is rocky, messy and upsetting for all parties involved.
Before you decide to step into the divorce proceedings, here are three key things you should do.
1. Gather Any Financial Records
Many women fall prey to old-fashioned gender norms when it comes to monetary control and bend to their spouse’s suggestion to control the household’s money. When faced with an impending divorce, you may discover hidden accounts or balances that could alter the divorce proceedings. As soon as you receive the divorce summons, you should immediately gather any financial records. These include bank information, mortgage statements, wills, credit or debit cards, and pay stubs. You will also want to get a clear picture of where you stand financially, as many divorce decrees divide marital assets equally.
2. Talk With an Attorney
Don’t wait for the shock to settle. As soon as you and your spouse decide to get a divorce, you should immediately call an attorney. Even if you don’t know your financial status, or if you’d prefer a mediator over a litigator—go ahead and make the call. Speaking with a knowledgeable professional early in the process will settle your mind about the upcoming process. Ask your network of friends for suggestions, and speak with lawyers that come highly recommended. At the end of the day, your future will be partly in their hands.
In the months following the initial summons, you should begin preparing financially for an independent life. If you and your spouse created a will, revisit that attorney to alter the assets previously promised. If you share a joint account with your spouse, you should immediately open a bank account in your name — preferably with a separate bank. Start saving in this new bank account for any divorce expenses. Use this new bank account to open a credit card in your name (if you don’t have one already) and start building up your credit score.
Divorce is hard and painful—no matter who is involved. If you or someone you know is currently going through a divorce, reach out to friends and family members for love and affirmation. Find a support group and connect with others going through a similar experience. Divorce doesn’t have to be an isolating experience.