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5 Tips for Preparing for Divorce

As it has has been said, everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn't end. But even if your marriage is ending, there are ways to make sure your divorce isn't unnecessarily traumatic.

Taking the right steps for your children, your business, your taxes, and especially yourself can prepare you for a divorce and make the divorce process a more positive experience, both financially and emotionally.

1. Take Care of Your Kids

This may not apply to all divorcing couples, but for those with children, a few pointers on what to expect and how to help your children through divorce are essential:

  • Don't try to manipulate children or the court during custody negotiations: Courts will make custody determinations based on your child's best interests. This process can include your child testifying as to his or her own wishes, so it's best to let your child be open with the court.
  • Don't make custody a proxy battleground: We get it, you're mad at your spouse, but don't take it out on them through your kids. Keep your custody negotiations and custody exchanges civil.
  • Don't ignore Bert and Ernie: If you'd like some help on how to talk to your children about divorce, Sesame Street now offers an online divorce kit for parents. Being more Big Bird and less Oscar the Grouch can help you and your children through the divorce.

2. Take Care of Your Business

If you're an entrepreneur, protecting your business during a divorce could be priority number one. Creating an enforceable postnuptial agreement regarding the business (if you don't already have a prenup) could be your best bet, especially in community property states where all assets obtained during the marriage are split 50-50.

Having the right business organization, like a corporation or an LLC, can insulate your business from divorce proceedings. And placing your business in a living trust could protect it, and its assets, from your spouse.

3. Take Care of the Tax Man

An often overlooked aspect of divorce is how it will affect your tax returns. Most people don't want to think about their taxes anyway, let alone when they're going through the emotional trauma of a divorce. But knowing the tax facts before you get divorced can save you from a bunch of headaches down the road.

There are different considerations, depending on if you have children or not. Even if you don't have kids, you'll need to work with your soon-to-be-ex and make sure you're on the same page with your tax filings -- if you file a joint tax return for your last year of marriage while your ex files a separate return for the same year, you could get a call from the IRS. And you also need to be sure your lesser half isn't pulling any funny stuff with the return.

If you have children, you'll need to work out which spouse gets to claim them as dependents, and therefore get the tax deduction. Normally, the custodial parent (the one the child has spent the majority of nights with over the preceding year) claims the deduction. But if you are planning on joint custody, you can agree to take turns with the dependent claim, alternating each year. Just make sure you get the agreement in writing.

4. Take Care of You

It may seem impossible now, but there are ways to have a less stressful, if not happy, divorce. And most of these strategies involve something more impossible sounding: working with, rather than against, your spouse.

There is a thing called a collaborative divorce, in which spouses use mediation and negotiation to settle disputes rather fighting it out in a courtroom. Mediating divorce disputes can save time and money, which can ease the emotional burden of the divorce. Using a collaborative divorce could give you a better chance of getting what you want, rather than leaving it up to a judge.

And while it may seem too late, a prenuptial agreement can make a divorce run much smoother. With an agreement on splitting marital property already in place, you don't have the stress of battling over a deal later. Don't have a prenup? Try a postnup.

5. Take Care of Your Attorney

Even lawyers themselves would do well to hire counsel to guide them through the divorce process. Not only does it help to have someone familiar with the legal and emotional terrain on your side, but having a buffer between you and your spouse (or your spouse's attorney) can remove much of the stress associated with divorce.

Hiring a divorce attorney is an important decision and shouldn't be taken lightly. You'll want someone with experience in the field and someone you feel comfortable with, both in a personal and professional manner. You also want to be on the same page when it comes to legal strategy and what you hope to accomplish through the divorce.

Finally, make sure you and your attorney are up front about the fees and likely expenses of divorce proceedings. Good divorce attorneys may not be cheap, but they should be clear about what they cost.

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