Everyone knows the classic New Year’s Resolution mistake: making unrealistic or over ambitious promises that fall apart within a few weeks. Still, the New Year presents an almost irresistible opportunity to make improvements in our lives – and if we make the right kinds of resolutions, that can be a very good thing.
How to succeed? Keep your resolutions concrete, specific and manageable… and if you do need to tackle something “big,” make sure it’s workable. Take exercising, for example. A resolution to “get in shape” is almost always doomed to fail. It’s too unwieldy, and it’s nonspecific. Imagine instead promising yourself to go for a walk three times a week and/or to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Now, you’re getting somewhere, because these are things you can actually do.
What does this have to do with divorce? Well, I know that with the New Year approaching, many women are making resolutions to get out of bad marriages or to “get through the divorce.” I’m here to suggest some workable resolutions, with concrete steps, that will help you do just that.
1. Resolve to get help.
Divorce isn’t something you can do on your own. You will need expert help. At a minimum, I recommend that your professional divorce team include a Matrimonial/Family Law Attorney, a divorce financial advisor and a therapist/counselor. You should do thorough research ahead of time, and interview several candidates for each of these positions.
In addition to the professionals, make sure you have a healthy support network of family and friends in place. You’ll be calling on them for sure, whether it’s because you need a good talk with a friend to keep you grounded, or because your child needs a place to be while you’re meeting with your lawyer.
2. Resolve to Think Financially, Not Emotionally®.
Getting through divorce in the best possible financial shape means putting your emotions on the back burner when necessary. Of course you can’t be a perfect stoic – there’s no getting around that divorce can be very painful, and you’ll need to cope with that.
Work with a compassionate therapist to help you with the emotional aspects of your divorce, and keep your head absolutely clear for the legal and financial negotiations. Do your utmost to stay cool as a cucumber during these sessions, because making financial decisions out of anger, spite, sorrow, guilt or any such thing is a recipe for disaster and regret.
3. Resolve to get organized.
At first, this might sound like “get in shape” – a resolution that loses meaning without specific steps toward your goal. But, I have specific steps to suggest.
For starters, recognize that divorce proceedings involve a tremendous amount of paperwork. The more on top of things you are, the more efficient and thorough your attorney and divorce financial advisor can be in working through settlement scenarios that will serve you best.
You’ll need copies on hand of all your financial and legal documents, including bank, brokerage and credit card statements, insurance policies, mortgages and other loans, tax returns, etc. Use my Financial Information Checklist as a starting point, and add to it as necessary. Store these documents in a secure place your husband can’t access, whether it’s with a trusted friend or relative, or a safe deposit box.
Divorce also means a lot of can’t-miss appointments and deadlines. Make sure you’ve got a reliable system that keeps you on track, whether that’s a brand new app for your smartphone or a good old Filofax in your handbag.
4. Resolve to protect yourself, financially.
When divorce starts to look like a reality, many husbands attempt to minimize what assets they will have to give up in the settlement. For example, suppose your husband owns a business. Once your divorce is underway, he may claim that (surprise!) the business actually has very little income or value, so there’s not much to divide. While this may come as a shock to any individual wife, it happens so often that divorce professionals call it Sudden Income Deficit Syndrome (SIDS).
Husbands hide assets much more frequently than most wives expect – never mind that it is underhanded and absolutely illegal. Protect yourself by learning some of the signs that your husband may be hiding marital assets, and keep your attorney and divorce financial advisor alert to what you see.
5. Resolve to focus on the future.
There is no doubt about it: divorcing in 2015, or any other year, is not going to be easy. At times, you’ll feel angry, sad, stressed out and exhausted on every level.
With this resolution, I encourage you to keep your eyes firmly fixed on the future. Know that no matter how bad things seem in any given moment, you will get through it, and keep the big picture in mind. Someday, this will all be behind you… and keeping your divorce resolutions will lay the groundwork for a financially secure future and a stable foundation for your life as a single woman.
Jeffrey Landers is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.