This time of year, many people begin making preliminary plans for the new year. Many times, these plans are based, at least in part, on the lessons learned in the old year, either by personal experience or by a friend or loved one’s experience. Divorce is one experience that has probably touched everyone in the country, either directly or indirectly. What lessons have been learned in these cases, and how can these lessons help you be prepared to avoid the financial pitfalls of divorce?
Being prepared for a divorce is much like being prepared for a natural disaster. If your not prepared you might end up with nothing in the end. Who wants to lose all those hard earned (and expensive) prep’s due to a spiteful spouse?
No two cases are alike; in fact, no two cases are even reasonably alike. But, when all of these snowflake cases are compared, a number of people make the same three observations:
- This divorce cost far more than I thought it would
- I didn’t understand that I would lose my health insurance
- I didn’t plan ahead more than a few years
All three of these pitfalls can be easily avoided by a little forward thinking.
Someone once said that no one sets out to build a tower without first considering the cost and making sure that there are enough funds available to finish the job. Otherwise, his neighbors will ridicule him as “the guy who cannot count, and so now he has a half-finished tower in his backyard.”
Very few people erect towers in their backyard anymore, but the idea remains the same: an experienced attorney should be able to give you some idea of how much the divorce will cost, and should also give you some options for controlling that cost.
Mediation is one of the best cost-control devices, which is probably one reason that many jurisdictions require mediation in a contested divorce. Mediation is not cheap: your attorney must do much of the same work in terms of discovery and preparing your case, and you must pay the mediator as well. However, these costs can be thousands of dollars less than the cost of a trial.
Most experienced divorce attorneys, such as Austin divorce lawyer James Evans, recommend mediation in nearly all their cases.
One of the marks of being a good prepper is being prepared for the inevitable. Once the divorce is final, the divorced spouse is unable to be on the ex-spouse’s health insurance plan. That being said, there are a few things you can do to make the transition to alternative insurance a little easier:
- COBRA: COBRA is not cheap, but it does allow a person to remain on a former health insurance plan for at least three months, and sometimes even longer.
- Legal separation: Not all states allow legal separation in lieu of divorce. But, if it is available, legal separation can be a very good solution in such situations. The spouses legally live apart, so the court makes provisions for custody and support. At the same time, the parties are still legally married.
Some divorcing spouses have a “take the money and run” approach. But, sometimes, the settlement that puts the most money in a purse or wallet today can be much more costly in the long term:
- It is usually a bad idea to trade away growing assets, such as home equity
- If awarded a fixed asset, such as a house or car, make sure that the taxes, insurance and all other maintenance expenses are affordable
By having a plan going into the divorce and keeping sight of long-term financial implications, the next stage of life can be much less daunting.