If you’re quarantined with your spouse and it’s NOT going well, you aren’t alone. Every year over 800,000 couples in the United States get divorced; and because many of them begin the process at the start of the calendar year, tens of thousands of people have been ordered to stay inside with the person they just asked for a divorce.
To make matters worse, the vast majority of courthouses have stopped accepting divorce filings, which means all divorces are now on hold … indefinitely. If you feel like you’re in divorce purgatory, it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Spend your time in isolation prepping for the most efficient divorce possible, and you’ll end up saving time, money, and headache.
Here’s how to divorce prep while in quarantine:
Organize Your Finances
Make a complete list of your assets, debts, and valuable personal belongings. Whether you’re handling your divorce on your own or you’re working with a lawyer, that list is one of the first things you’ll be asked to produce. Write down every bank account, every debt, and any personal belongings you think are worth more than $500. In order to be complete, your list should include assets and debts held in your name, in your spouse’s name, in joint names with your spouse, or that you hold jointly with others. Here’s an example of a helpful entry:
Casey’s Bank of America Checking Account: Account Number ending in x0001; Account opened January 2000; Balance as of March 1, 2020: $1,000.
Believe it or not, preparing this list with your attorney can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars – the more detailed and complete you can make your first draft of this list, the more time and money you’ll save later on.
Once you’ve made this list ask yourself: is there anything I’m missing? Maybe there’s a retirement account from an old employer you’ve lost track of — well, it’s time to track it down. No divorce can be completed without full financial disclosure.
Set a Budget & Timeline
The average person getting divorced in the United States spends $15,000 on legal fees, so you’ll want to think about how much you can afford to spend on your divorce. The total cost of divorce varies depending on your lawyer’s hourly rate, the level of conflict in your marriage, the complexity of your circumstances, and how efficiently you respond to the demands of the process. If you’re hoping to control the cost of your divorce, it helps to set a budget in advance and make your lawyer aware of your expectations. If you can’t find a lawyer that thinks you’ve set a reasonable budget, you may need to reassess the budget.
Getting divorced can take anywhere from three months to multiple years. If you’re hoping to keep your divorce timeline on the shorter side, you’ll want to do as much preparation as possible.
Post-Divorce Planning & Budgeting
It might feel far away but you really should start thinking about your life after divorce. Where will you live? What will your monthly budgetary needs be? If you have children, what will your parenting schedule look like? In order to have an efficient divorce negotiation, you need to know what to ask for and what your ideal outcome looks like.
Children & Divorce
If you have children, you’ll be happy to know there are countless resources that will help ease this transition for your kids. Adjusting to a new schedule, new surroundings, and a new family structure is challenging — start reading up on how you can help them process these inevitable changes.
Start a Self Care Routine
Divorce is incredibly stressful; if you aren’t already practicing a self care routine, you need to get on it. What habits make you feel centered? What activities make you happy? When you’re stressed, what’s the best stress relief? And let’s face it, being quarantined with your soon-to-be-ex is pretty stressful on its own, so make self care activities a regular part of your life starting now.
Look for Help
Divorce is complicated and you may need legal, financial or therapeutic help along the way. Given that you’re quarantined for the foreseeable future, look for professionals who are tech savvy and able to offer you virtual conferencing services. If cost is a concern, look for professionals that publish their billable rates online and don’t be afraid to ask how you can keep your costs down while you work together.
Bonus Tip: Always be the one to check your mailbox. I’ve been surprised what clients can learn by just looking at (not even opening) their spouse’s daily mail.