The "Ideal" Time for Divorce Only Comes With Proper Preparation

Jessica is planning to file for divorce , but is holding off until school year is over, thinking it will be easier on the children if they aren’t in school when she breaks the news. July, she thinks, will be the best time to make her move.

Danielle knows that her husband is seeing another woman, and she doesn’t want to stay in the marriage. Still, she would prefer to wait to get divorced until after the Aegean cruise they have planned. When they return in September, she thinks, the time will be right.

Miranda wants very much to leave her narcissistic husband, but she won’t even think about it until next year, when the annual holiday family visits will be over with. January, she thinks, will be the ideal time to begin the divorce process.

Petra is waiting until the planets are properly aligned in her astrological chart before ending her failed marriage. She doesn’t know precisely when that will be, but, she thinks, her horoscope will clue her in.

Is Petra’s thinking silly to you, while Miranda’s makes perfect sense? Maybe Danielle’s reasoning seems selfish, but Jessica’s just doing the right thing for her kids?

Well, as a Divorce Financial Strategist™ , I can tell you that it doesn’t matter if you are waiting to file for divorce due to family circumstances, celestial ones, or anything in-between. Simply put, if you aren’t properly prepared, it isn’t the best time to file for divorce, no matter what the calendar says. And, if you are properly prepared, then there is probably never going to be a “better” time.

What does being “properly prepared” mean? These four things:

1. You have your financial paperwork in order.

People say that marriage is about love, and divorce is about money. And it’s true – much of the legal divorce process centers on division of assets and debts . While you’re divorcing, it’s likely you’ll undergo a more detailed examination of your financial situation than you may ever have conducted while you were married. Having the necessary documents on hand early in the divorce process avoids time, expense and potential unpleasantness trying to get copies of them later.

Go through my Financial Information Checklist to see what financial and legal documents you should gather and copy. It’s a long list, and you may have items to add to it. Some of these papers may concern things you haven’t even thought about, let alone laid eyes on, in years. It will take time to assemble all these documents, so start now. (Remember, once you’ve declared your intention to divorce, your husband won’t likely feel inclined to help you.)

Keep your copies of these documents with a trusted friend or relative, or use a safe deposit box that your husband can’t access.

2. You’ve assessed your credit, and opened your own bank accounts.

You may not have given your individual credit rating much thought since you were married, but now’s the time to look into it. Good credit is the foundation of your financial future, so you want it to be solid. Request a copy of your credit report, and correct any errors it contains. (Also, check out my post on How To Protect Your Credit Score During Your Divorce .) Keep an especially close eye on credit card statements. If your husband is using your joint cards to buy his girlfriend gifts, you’ll want to be able to document that for your divorce, even if you’ve turned a blind eye to it until now.

Please note: It is not too soon to establish the bank accounts and credit cards you will need as a single woman. You should open savings and checking accounts in your name alone, at a different bank than where you currently have joint accounts. Credit cards are especially important – few people manage household expenses without them! Especially if you don’t have income of your own, it might take time to obtain cards in your own name. Once again, it’s best if you get started now.

Related: 4 Tips for Women Who Earn More Than Their Husbands

3. Your private bank accounts have sufficient funds in them.

Divorce professionals, such as lawyers, divorce financial advisors, forensic experts, valuation and vocational experts, etc., are all very expensive, charging hundreds of dollars per hour and requiring substantial upfront retainer fees. As I discuss in this earlier post, The Pros And Cons Of Keeping A Secret Fund In Case You Divorce , it’s often beneficial to squirrel away a substantial amount of money. How much? It depends on how complicated your financial situation, but you could be talking about several thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. You also need a way to pay those credit card bills as well as your other household expenses if your husband cuts you off.

And speaking of divorce professionals . . .

4. You have started to get your divorce team in place.

You already know you will need a lawyer to handle your divorce. Be sure to interview several matrimonial/family law attorneys before choosing one. Look for demonstrated expertise in any special aspects of your case.

You will also want to hire a divorce financial planner . As the financial expert on your team, this person will examine every aspect of your portfolio and work through multiple settlement scenarios. The goal is to achieve the best possible financial outcome and make your settlement last as long as possible after your divorce.

A compassionate therapist will be an important member of your team, as well. Divorce is an intensely emotional process. Make sure to have a support network in place, so that when necessary, you’ll be able to focus on financial and legal details, and their long-term implications.

With all these steps completed, you are in excellent shape to begin your divorce, no matter what else is on your calendar –or what your horoscope says! There is no “ideal” time for divorce, but being prepared will help you achieve the best possible outcome.