Four steps to take when planning to divorce

The process of divorce is an emotionally challenging time for both parents and children. When thinking about whether to divorce, you can consider these four steps.

The idea of getting divorced is often something people struggle with, as it raises a number of financial and emotional concerns. Due to the overwhelming nature of the process, it may be easy for people in Colorado to lose sight of the steps they should be taking to protect themselves and their future. Below is a checklist of four items that people find helpful when going through a divorce.

1. Assess your finances

Divorce is often complicated due to the division of assets. People approaching a divorce should take stock of what their marital and non-marital property is, giving them an idea of where they may be financially following the divorce. Divorce laws require full open and honest disclosure of financial information. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, women who divorce typically see a 41 percent decrease in household income. Typically, men's household income decline is roughly half that amount.

Part of assessing finances should be getting an idea about where each spouse will live. Of course, the family home may remain the primary residence for one of the spouses and children depending on the terms of the divorce. However, having a working budget that addresses mortgage or rent as well as other costs that will be taken on by just one instead of two people is important as it creates a realistic picture of what each spouse will need in terms of income. You also might consider obtaining a credit report to determine where you stand with regard to reported assets and debts. A credit report will also assist in determining whether you can access credit, if necessary.

Keep in mind that there is always an economic cost to divorce. It simply costs more to maintain two households than to fund one household.

2. Commit to effective communication

Going through a divorce is often a smoother transition when both parties commit to working with each other instead of against each other. It is possible to advocate for individual interests while still maintaining effective communication with the other party. Name-calling and finger-pointing typically only muddies the water. Working with collaboratively trained lawyers is an option that enables parties to control the divorce process and reach mutually beneficial resolutions.

3. Plan for the children

Couples who have children should be especially diligent about breaking the news. Whenever possible, this should be done as a family with both parents involved. This helps the children see a unified front and serves as a reminder that both parents still love the children. Depending on the child's age, their questions should be answered honestly, yet simply. Dragging children into the details of a divorce may be harmful.

This is another area where couples should be focused on doing what is best for the family as a whole, which means serving the children's best interests. Committing to that idea ahead of time may make decisions surrounding support, parental decision making and parenting time a little easier. Consider meeting with a mental health professional jointly to gain knowledge and information about constructing the best parenting plan for your children, based upon their ages and developmental needs. One size does not fit all when it comes to parenting plans.

4. Seek financial and emotional support

There are a number of ways to find support during a divorce. Aside from friends and family, there are groups dedicated to helping people cope with the emotional struggles associated with divorce. Some people turn to individual therapy as well.

Support also comes in the form of working with the right professionals. A forensic accountant is useful in analyzing complex property division issues. Sometimes it is necessary to use a professional to value a business, pension, or appraise a home or other real property. The best advice is not to be surprised. Consult with a Colorado Family Law attorney. Many will offer a pre-divorce planning consultation.