Whether you are plotting to leave a bad (or even dangerous) relationship, or have already mutually and amicably agreed to part ways with your spouse, the key to a healthy breakup, in which both parties land on their feet, is to plan ahead, put your emotions at bay as much as you can, and approach the next weeks and months as a business arrangement.
Here is a divorce checklist of things you need right now to move forward with your new life and family. Almost all of these items apply whether you are/were married, or living together with children and combined assets.
Legally, both parents have equal access to their collective children until either a divorce is filed — at which time a parenting agreement is also required to be submitted — or you file a custody/visitation agreement in family court. If you need help trying to figure out where to start, check out LegalZoom.com.
Lawyer / mediator
Even if you decide to DIY your divorce or separation, still get an attorney to look over and verify all the legal documents to make sure that you never have to revisit these things!
Because you probably need one, and the kids do, too. Consider online therapy — which is cheaper and more convenient than in-person couch time.
Likely, if you are getting divorced, there will be some changes to your health insurance situation. This is something you can negotiate in your break up, since, as you know, health insurance is crazy-expensive, and you likely will be sharing the cost of your kids’ coverage with their other parent.
Watch your credit
Divorce and breakups are some of the most common times when credit fraud can occur. Fighting exes can steal your personal information to take on loans or open credit cards in your name, fail to pay debts they agreed to, and, sadly, it is common to steal children’s identities, too. Check your credit score at CreditSesame.com – 100% free!
Related post: How to protect your credit and identity during divorce
Collect the documents!
You will need all of these documents to be able to appropriately settle your divorce. It’s a lot, but the sooner you collect them all in one place, the easier this process:
These include checking, savings accounts, CDs, money market accounts.
List of all assets of any value.
If there is any question, get them appraised. These can include:
- Real estate
- Cars and other vehicles of significant value. Check the value at KellyBlueBook.com
- Time share
- Any personal items of significant resale value, such as clothes, handbags, sports equipment, furniture, furs, electronics
Mortgage, including home equity loans and lines of credit
Names and date of birth of each minor child you have together
Retirement accounts that you need to consider include IRAs, Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, SEP IRAs, 403(b)s, 457’s Thrift Savings Plans, TIAA-CREF, pensions and Social Security benefits. This will all need to be discussed, and likely divided, in your split.
Related post: How to get started investing for women
Credit card, tax and personal loan debt
Like it or not, legally, you are likely on the hook for any debt accrued during the marriage. Dig up documentation of all statements, including interest rates and due dates.
Related post: How single moms can pay off debt in 14 easy steps
Student debt taken on before you married is likely going to stay with the person who signed the loan. However, if the debt was assumed during the marriage, it is likely the responsibility of both parties, at least to some degree, and can get messy. Come to the table with all information can can collect, including dates the deeds were signed, terms of the loans, whether the loans were used just for school, books and fees, or also living expenses. Jeff Landers expands on this topic at Forbes.
Income information: Pay stubs, tax returns
- Copies of state and federal tax returns for the previous three (3) years and all corresponding W-2 or 1099 statements.
- Copies of corporate tax returns for the previous three (3) years if one or both spouses have a business.
- Related post: What single moms and dads need to know about taxes
Life and disability policies
Every parent of a minor-aged child needs life insurance, no matter how much money you earn, or whether you are dependent on child support, public benefits or others’ generosity. Fortunately, there are affordable, and easy ways to find affordable life insurance for almost every budget. I recommend
checking into finding affordable life insurance coverage through HavenLife.com!
Related post: How single moms can find affordable health insurance.
Any lawsuits, including bankruptcies
Will and estate document
Even more important now than ever, as a single parent, if you do not have a will, you need one, learn more about that on my post, What single moms need to know about wills and estate plans.
LegalZoom.com can also help you with process as well!
Create an independent financial life
The sooner you see yourself as an autonomous woman, an independent adult who is capable of living alone and being a financially independent person, the sooner you will move on from your divorce. This includes a plan to be free of child support and alimony, building a career or business that you love and earns more than you need, having a solid savings and investment strategy, and living in a home you can comfortably afford.
This will all likely take time, therapy and lots of hard work. But the more you fight with your ex, the longer you drag out the divorce, the more you try to get from him financially, the longer the pain, heartbreak and poverty will last. Let it go. Move on. Forgive. Go forward.
Get a FREE Kickass Single Mom Manifesto from my #1 Bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom.
Related Post: 11 steps to a rich life as a single mom
Statistically, you are likely to be poorer after your breakup than when you were living fulltime with another adult. When you feel broke, you live in fear, and make decisions out of fear. It is easy to focus on budgeting and saving: clipping coupons, cutting expenses, and putting your energy into less. This can not only create a poverty mentality, but doesn’t make sense to spend your time and energy on these efforts. after all, you can only save so much. When it comes to earning, the sky is the limit!
Save and invest more
During this difficult time, do not fall trap to the urges of well-meaning friends and media messages that tell you to treat yourself. Yes, take care of your physical, mental and spiritual well being. But unless you can easily afford to, this does not include expensive spa treatments, vacations or other luxuries. It is not a treat if it results in the expense of debt and worry about paying the rent!
Long-term, accept that you are statistically likely to be solely responsible for your own saving and investing. Make decisions aimed at not being dependent on your children in your later years, or in the event you become sick or disabled.
Related post: 9 best savings accounts for single mom
Whether from trusted family and friends, a support group, or an online community like Millionaire Single Moms on Facebook, you need people who understand what you are going through and will be a great sounding board and source of advice. Divorce is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful life events, but remember that it is passing, and life will get better (and then likely get worse at some point, but that is for another blog post!).