22 May Worst Case Scenario: How to Avoid A Nightmare Divorce
People get married for plenty of reasons, from love to security and stability to family and finances. It isn’t exactly controversial to say that no one gets married to get divorced. The process can be messy and damaging, and isn’t fun for anyone. And yet, as statistics prove and common sense dictates, plenty of marriages end long before death does either spouse part.
So what can you do, before, during, and after your marriage, in order to make sure that if a divorce occurs, things go as smoothly as possible? What can you do, as a rational person looking to minimize risk, to mitigate the chances of landing yourself in the kind of terrible divorce that movies are made of? Start here, with our five steps for avoiding a nightmare divorce.
Get a Prenup
Even before a marriage starts, it is in your best interest to think about what will happen if a divorce ever occurs. Remember, we are talking about “worst case scenarios” here: no one gets married planning to get divorced, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for unfortunate possibilities.
There is already a lot of valuable information on this site about the merits of prenups, but it should be noted again that they are a good idea for almost anyone. In general, don’t fall into the trap of thinking prenuptial agreements are cynical or unromantic. A good prenup does a lot to strengthen matrimony, by making sure that concerns such as inheritance, personal finances, and debt don’t become points of stress during a marriage.
If you decide not to opt for a prenup, divorce could mean a long and financially draining fight for assets. Not to mention the potential loss of family property, the liquidation or dissolution of your business for small business owners, and a whole lot of mess overall. To avoid a nightmare divorce, start your marital dream on the right foot and get a prenup.
Divide Your Assets During Marriage
One of the hardest parts about divorce that can cause stress and hardship for even the most grounded couples is dividing assets and money earned during the course of the marriage. This is one of the reasons that for couples consisting of two professional earners, it can be a good idea to keep separate bank accounts, earnings logs, and other financial information. While it is common for couples to join their finances and benefit from tax breaks, and other incentives, it is possible to receive most of these perks while still keeping separate bank accounts.
Again, this shouldn’t be thought of as a cynical strategy. Keeping separate bank accounts doesn’t mean that you want to get divorced; instead it is a rational strategy for marriages consisting of two big earners, as it makes things easier in those “worst case scenarios.” Even if you do keep separate accounts it will be a long process that will require legal aide to separate all your assets at a marriage’s termination, but keeping your earnings and return on investments as distinct and separate as possible during the golden years is a good idea and will make things easier.
The two strategies above will help you avoid some of the worst elements of a nightmare divorce if the worst case scenario comes true and your marriage ends, but that doesn’t help you too much once divorce proceedings are already under way. The remaining strategies in this resource should provide you with some guidance when the worst-case scenario has already come true, and you are in the midst of a nightmare divorce and need all of the guidance that you can get.
As is true in marriage, the most important thing you can do during a divorce is communicate, and good communication with a variety of people will make or break your attempts to avoid the worst elements of a nightmare divorce. Communicating with your lawyer will be essential, as without full participation on your end, your legal counsel can’t do a very good job of defending your interests. You should make it a priority to respond to your lawyer’s requests promptly, and keep communications with your legal team moving quickly and freely. In addition to responding to emails and phone calls, remember that good communication with your lawyer includes providing requested documents and resources as well as conveying your honest wants and needs.
Communication doesn’t end with your attorney, though. As much as is possible, keep in open discussions with your former spouse as well. At the advice of your attorney, make sure to respond to requests in a timely manner and keep in contact with your spouse as much as you can manage. By doing so, you help set a more cordial tone for divorce proceedings, which will save everyone time and money in the long run.
In addition, good communication with your former spouse and their legal team may make it possible to settle some matters out of court, which is one of the best things you can do overall to help avoid a nightmare divorce. Ask your lawyer about drafting a settlement agreement, as the exact protocol varies widely depending on where your separation occurs and you will need good counsel on your time even when an out of court settlement takes place. By avoiding the courtroom whenever possible though you will save big, on time and money. However, this kind of solution isn’t at all possible without good communication on your end with all parties involved.
Get Your Own Lawyer
It is your legal responsibility to obtain a different lawyer than your spouse in order to represent you during divorce proceedings.
Even if you have a family lawyer that both you and your spouse have been using for years, it isn’t appropriate to rely on this attorney exclusively for your legal divorce needs. You can most certainly both consult such a lawyer for general advice and with your questions and concerns, but you will both need your own lawyer to make sure that your interests are represented fairly. There is a big ethical concern to having one lawyer represent both sides of a divorce, which is why many lawyers will advise the opposing party to obtain counsel, even while it is not legally necessary for the opposing party to do so. The long and short of it is that you will need to have your own legal counsel to represent your interests fairly, and there really isn’t any getting around that fact.
And for all of the DIY experts in the world, divorce is not the time or place to try to learn and apply something new about the law. You can figure out the paperwork in some other legal situations, but divorce is just too complicated for non-professionals to handle effectively. Divorce law deals with local, state, and national stipulation, takes into account hundreds of years of precedent, and is otherwise very complicated and inaccessible. If you are hoping to avoid a nightmare divorce, there is nothing worse you can do than put off getting your own lawyer and try to handle things on your own. Don’t wing it, and don’t rely on a family lawyer your former spouse will be consulting. Get your own legal representation as soon as possible, or be prepared for you divorce to last longer and be more expensive than necessary.
Triple Check Everything
While it can take more time to double and triple check all of the complicated paperwork and requirements during divorce, doing so will save you time and money in the long run. When looking at financial documents, double and triple check everything you send to your former spouse’s team in order to assure that you are forwarding the right documents. Make copies of everything, and check that every document you refer to is in order. Triple checking your p’s and q’s, especially where financial documents and communications with your former spouse’s team are concerned, is absolutely necessary in order to avoid nightmarish divorce delays.
And triple checking shouldn’t stop there. Take diligent notice of every court order and legal deadline you face, and triple check that you have plans in place to comply with every court requirement. Your attorney can help you make sure that dates and requirements are met, but you should still triple check everything to make sure that you are doing your part and providing everything you need to provide. A good attorney will help you to do so. There is no worse time than in the midst of a divorce proceeding to not turn in forms when they are due, or make silly mistakes that you could have caught by double-checking yourself. Getting your own lawyer, communicating well, along with the other suggestions that we covered above is critical in avoiding a nightmare divorce.
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