For parents with children, the kids become the main focus of the divorce process. This can even impact property division. Who gets the house, for example, may be whoever is going to have physical custody of the kids.
For career-oriented individuals who decided not to have kids, though, property division itself takes center stage. In your 40s or 50s, you have substantial assets. You must know how to split them fairly and protect what's yours. Below are 10 key tips as you go through this process.
- Don't fight over the small things. Pick your battles. Wasting all of your time fighting over things that only cost $100 or less just gives you added stress you don't need, and it may cost more than the items are worth.
- Keep your emotions out of it. Try to make financial decisions rationally, based on facts and figures. It's an emotional time, but letting emotions guide financial decisions can lead to things you regret.
- Don't try to keep assets by hiding them. It's illegal. You want to disclose what you have to the court and then fight for it, rather than trying to hide it away and getting caught.
- Don't guess on values. This is true for big-ticket items like the family home and smaller items like an art collection. Have a valuation done so you know what things are really worth.
- Use all financial documents to look into your spouse's earnings. This includes tax returns and loan applications, for example, which could paint a slightly different picture.
- Make sure you really understand your finances. If you're the one filing for divorce, it can be best to start researching it before you even file. Your spouse may make it harder after the paperwork is on the table.
- Consider debt, as well. It has to be divided, in many cases, along with assets. Know how that plays into the overall financial picture and what your post-divorce obligations may be.
- Set up a post-divorce budget. This helps you look at what type of assets you'll have and what you need to seek financially, making it the starting point for your negotiations.
- Don't be afraid of compromise. There are times when it's your best option. If you give a little, your spouse may, too.
- Consider all financial accounts. Don't forget retirement plans, life insurance plans, pensions, and all the rest. Remember that your assets go far beyond day-to-day items and the balance of your bank account.
Throughout all of this, make sure you know your legal rights and how to work through this process. Don't take a passive stance. Be proactive, understand what you want, and know how to fight for it.