While divorce is hard on everybody, for those in their 20’s, married a few years and just starting out, it may be a bit easier as many of the things that make a divorce complex may not yet be an issue. Perhaps they don’t have children yet, don’t own a house or haven’t accumulated significant assets or liabilities.
But if you are older, the game changes dramatically. Instead of thinking about who you’ll date next once you’re divorced, you’re worried about how you’re going to afford to live and / or retire. Dating is the last thing on your mind!
So if you find yourself divorcing later in life, what can you do to protect yourself and make sure you can live out the rest of your years in relative comfort?
Step One: Take Stock
As you get older, chances are you have more in the way of assets and liabilities. So before you begin the divorce process, it’s a good idea to put together an overview of what your financial picture looks like.
Start with your accountant or financial advisor as they can provide you with information on your income and assets. Or examine your tax returns to see what income each of you earns, what interest generating accounts you have and what stocks or bonds you own or have recently sold.
Even if you don’t know the balances, try and come up with a list of everything you have or think you have. For example, you may not know the balance in your soon to be ex-spouse’s 401k but you may be able to determine if they have one by looking at their paystub and seeing if there are contributions being made.
Then visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com/ and download your credit reports to view credit cards, mortgages, balances owed and payment history. Many people are shocked to find out what they owe as typically one spouse in the house pays all the bills and the other spouse goes about their business thinking everything was getting paid.
Finally, take a household inventory and pictures of items both valuable and common. That bedroom furniture might not be much to look at, but if you have to replace it, there is a cost to do so.
Step Two: Build Your Team
When you’re older, divorce can take on a life of its own. That’s why it’s important to bring in experts who can help you make sense of everything before you begin as well as during the divorce process itself.
Get to know and trust a financial advisor. Many spouses are left with retirement funds or other assets as part of the divorce. Having a financial advisor can help you invest those items and also help you figure out how much alimony you may need to live comfortably.
Also enlist the help of a coach. Coaches can help with all sorts of divorce-related issues like forgiveness, dating, re-entering the job force, etc. You may be 50 (or older) but you still have plenty of life left to live.
Finally, talk to your adult children about your divorce. Just because your kids are older, it doesn’t mean they won’t take it just as hard. Sure the conversation might be different than if you were telling a 5 year old, but still your adult children need and deserve to know. You will be leaning on them as the divorce progresses so better to bring them into the loop now.
Step Three: If Possible, Mediate
Because mediation costs significantly less than litigating, you’ll be able to keep more of your hard earned money for retirement instead of spending it on legal fees. And because mediation takes months instead of years, you can spend less of your time going back and forth in court and more of your time living your life.
Finally, because you’ll be doing the deciding instead of a judge or lawyers, you can make the choices that are best for you and your future. Want to keep the house? Need more in liquid cash and willing to negotiate more in pension funds? Mediation can help you do that.
There’s Still Plenty of Living to Do!
There’s no question that divorce is a life-altering event that some people never seem to recover from. But by being educated, empowered and controlling what your settlement looks like, you’ll have a much better chance of being able to recover from the heartache of divorce and start a positive new chapter in your life.
This guest post was provided by Equitable Mediation Services’ Founder & Divorce Mediator Joe Dillon, who oversees the firm’s practice areas of divorce mediation and divorce financial analysis and works personally with clients in Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To learn more about Equitable Mediation and the services they offer please visit http://www.equitablemediation.com/ or call (877) 732 6682 today.