When you get married, you surround yourself with a team, which usually includes, at a minimum, a dress-maker (or seamstress), a caterer, a florist, perhaps a religious official and maybe a wedding planner. That’s just a few of the professionals who might be involved. It can take months to plan, be incredibly stressful, and the whole thing results in a piece of paper that says your official state of relationship has changed from single to married. However, for over 50% of Americans, that happy day is the beginning of a journey that ends with another piece of paper that, once again, changes your official state of relationship—back to being single. The average divorce today takes about a year, and sometimes longer, to resolve. It can also cost as much as (or more than) what you spent on your nuptials and has the potential to be emotionally overwhelming and financially crippling.
So what do you do? Just as you did when you got married, you should surround yourself with a team of professionals when you get “unmarried.” You probably didn’t make your own dress, so you should probably not write your own separation agreement. You would hire an attorney for that. Your legal professional is also going to help guide you through the legal system’s maze of Family Court, regardless of whether you use mediation, collaborative law or litigation. Instead of a caterer, you’ll have a financial professional who is going to help you understand the short-term and long-term financial implications of the decisions you will need to make. This piece can be particularly important, especially if one of the parties isn’t as involved in the family finances as the other, or if there is a business or pension involved. In place of the florist, you might have a therapist or counselor to help you, and/or your children, handle the emotional impact of uncoupling. Divorce can be emotionally complex for everyone involved and those emotions can, if allowed, result in poor decisions. And there could be others on your team depending on your circumstances, including a realtor, an accountant or tax-preparer, a child-specialist and/or a valuation specialist to name a few.
Additionally, just like most weddings are not cheap these days, a well-planned divorce comes at a cost. However, building a thorough divorce team and using those resources wisely can actually save you money in the long-run by making sure that you are making wise financial decisions to help protect you now and into your new future.
When we marry, we are building a future with “that special dance partner.” When we divorce, we are building a new future, just using different dance partners. Remember, when you go through a divorce, choose partners that have experience to try and avoid any missteps along the way.