Most women wait until after the holidays to move forward with their divorces –and that’s completely understandable. Many don’t want to disrupt family traditions for their children. Some welcome the distraction offered by the hustle and bustle of the season. And, of course, others want to avoid the discussions that inevitably seem to arise whenever and wherever relatives gather.
Interestingly, though, January is the month when most divorces are filed. Obviously, turning the page towards a New Year inspires a fresh start –and that’s completely understandable, too. If you’re headed in that direction, it makes sense to spend a little time this month planning ahead. You can do so discreetly, and then know that you’ll truly be ready to start the New Year on the right foot.
To help get you begin, here are a few things you can do now to help make the divorce process smoother in 2012:
1. Start collecting financial documents. Watch the mail for year-end statements from banks, credit card companies, etc. As we outline in our Divorce Financial Checklist, preparing for divorce requires gathering all the relevant documents related to your bank and brokerage accounts, credit cards, mortgages, etc. Once you have collected them, make copies, and take them to a trusted friend/family member, or use a safe deposit box that your husband can’t access.
2. Check your credit report. While you’re gathering your financial records, keep a careful eye on your credit card statements, and if you haven’t already done so, request a copy of your credit report. Once you have the report, monitor your score carefully so you’ll be the first to know if any unusual activity occurs. (For example, is your husband using your joint credit cards to buy his girlfriend gifts this holiday season?) See my post, How To Protect Your Credit Score During Your Divorce, for more tips
3. Research divorce professionals in your area. If you want to ensure the best possible outcome for your divorce, take the time to build a qualified divorce team. I recommend you start with these three players: a matrimonial/family law attorney, a divorce financial planner and a therapist/counselor. Spend some time this month researching divorce professionals and create a short list of candidates for each position. Schedule interviews with each top contender in January, and rest easy knowing that by February 2012, you’ll be benefiting from the expert guidance of a top-notch divorce team.
4. Open new accounts in your name. Moving forward as a single woman in 2012 will require that you have a bank account and credit cards in your name. Lay the groundwork now. Don’t use the bank where you currently have your joint accounts. Go to a different bank and open both a savings and a checking account in your name. You’ll need your own credit card, too, so you should start that process now, as well. New federal regulations are making it harder than ever for women with little or no income to establish credit on their own. You can do it. But, plan accordingly and know that securing credit is going to be more complicated than just filling out an application or making a single phone call.
5. Remain vigilant. Is your husband using the good cheer of the holidays as cover while he dissipates family assets? Be attentive, and if you are concerned at all about financial shenanigans by your husband, you may want to think twice about filing a joint return with him for 2011.
Some women who are considering divorce let the holidays get them down. Don’t be one of them. Use this opportunity to start planning ahead, and you’ll be able to start the New Year confident that you are on the way to a more stable and secure financial future.