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Do and Don'ts overview

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9 divorce do’s

Start talking specifics.

Start talking specifics.

Going through a divorce takes planning. Educate yourself about the laws on asset division and spousal support or child support (if applicable) in your state. Then think about how you will live during the divorce and how you want to build your life after the divorce. Having a financial planner or accountant work with your divorce lawyer or mediator may help you make decisions about a divorce settlement that could help you develop and protect your plans for a comfortable retirement. A financial professional may also be able to help you determine your post-divorce budget and investment strategy.

Gather all records.

Gather all records.

Make a clear copy of all tax returns, loan applications, wills, trusts, financial statements, banking information, brokerage statements, loan documents, credit card statements, deeds to real estate, and car registrations. Also consider current year-to-date pay stubs for both spouses, and tax-assessed values of property or current real estate appraisals (less than 6 months old). Business owners should produce year-end profit and loss and balance sheets. Be sure to copy records that can trace and verify separately owned property, such as an inheritance or family gifts. Try to gather at least 3 years, because you'll need that for the financial disclosure part of the legal proceedings.

Know what is owed.

Concealed debt is a common surprise among couples going through divorce. Turn to a legal expert to discuss the extent of your responsibilities for debt, including debt incurred through jointly issued credit cards or loans, even when you did not benefit from such debt. Get a full credit report to make sure there are no surprises on it.

Annual credit Report.com provides free credit reports every 12 months from each of the 3 credit bureaus. Consider closing joint credit accounts and shift to single accounts so that an ex-spouse’s credit score won't affect your credit rating.

Document household goods.

Document household goods.

Take photos of valuables around the house—jewelry, art, antiques, and even sentimental items that are valuable in other ways. It’s not unheard of for divorcing spouses to hide assets from one another.

Get your fair share.

Get your fair share.

Depending on the laws of your state, and the length of your marriage, you may be entitled to half of all of the assets acquired during the marriage or brought into the marriage. Understand those laws. Even if there are assets you have no interest in, you may be able to use it to trade for something you do want. If you helped put your spouse through graduate school, law school, or medical school, you may be entitled to some reimbursement for the cost of tuition.

Keep close tabs on legal fees.

Keep close tabs on legal fees.

Keep close track of the work lawyers are doing on your behalf. Remember that your lawyer is a paid professional who is billing you at an hourly rate. Be mindful of the time your lawyer spends with and for you. Doing some of the prework ahead of time will save you time and money in the long run.

Check Social Security benefits.

Check Social Security benefits.

Once you reach age 62 or your full retirement age, your ex’s earnings history may provide a larger Social Security benefit than the one you are entitled to on your own earnings history. So, it can pay to check whether using your spouse’s earning history is a better option for your Social Security benefits.

Update registration types.

Update registration types.

Consider how you'll need to change the registrations on any financial accounts that are owned jointly. Such ownership changes typically require specific documentation. Consider speaking with a tax advisor or other financial professional before making any big moves.

Update your legacy documents.

Update your legacy documents.

Review your will and estate plan, including beneficiaries named on insurance policies and retirement accounts.

6 divorce don'ts

Legal

Legal

Having your paperwork in order can help you file for divorce.

Finances

Finances

The first step in protecting your money is to take stock of what you have.

House

House

Understand the full set of costs associated with owning a home.

Family and kids

Family and kids

Custody arrangements should focus on the wellbeing of the child.

Insurance

Insurance

Take steps to ensure you have personal coverage.

Top tips

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Focus on the long term

Ignoring your wellbeing or avoiding a full assessment of your finances will hurt your outlook.

Stay grounded

Avoid making important decisions when you’re in a negative emotional state.

Expect to spend more

Living single can be costly—most people’s expenses go up 30%1 after a divorce, so budget accordingly.

By the numbers

1M+

There were 1M+ divorces in the US in 20162

2x

The divorce rate doubles after age 503

40–50%

40–50% of married couples in the US divorce4

Two Columns Grid - Flat inside the Card

Focus on the long term

Ignoring your wellbeing or avoiding a full assessment of your finances will hurt your outlook.

Expect to spend more

Ignoring your wellbeing or avoiding a full assessment of your finances will hurt your outlook.

Living single can be costly—most people’s expenses go up 30%1 after a divorce, so budget accordingly.

Expect to spend more

Ignoring your wellbeing or avoiding a full assessment of your finances will hurt your outlook.

Living single can be costly—most people’s expenses go up 30%1 after a divorce, so budget accordingly.

Focus on the long term

Ignoring your wellbeing or avoiding a full assessment of your finances will hurt your outlook.

Clarity begins with a conversation

Contact Fidelity today for 1-on-1 guidance during life’s big decisions. We believe in making the complex simpler, because we want you to be confident about the decisions you make—next week, next year, and beyond.