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Do you know the difference between a hurricane and divorce? There is none! Someone’s definitely losing the house (Robin Williams)
Everyone laughed and the show went on, but some in the audience were laughing out of the other side of their mouth. Divorce is no joke and, in most cases, it looks and feels just like a hurricane. It gradually rips through families and business, taking everything out of balance and all those involved are left to pick up the pieces.
And it happens more often than we care to admit, somewhere between 40 to 50% of the married couples in the United States end up divorced. Marital dissolution is a rocky, emotionally-draining ride that takes its toll on both partners. But it doesn’t have to be more difficult than necessary – you can count on professional, specialized help to guide you along this thorny journey and safeguard your interests.
The law is complicated and highly consequential, therefore having a good attorney on your side is key to navigating the conflict as best (and fair-play) as possible, saving time & money and avoiding pointless, nerve-wracking battles with the soon to be ex-spouse.
First Aid Kit for the Inevitable
Your spouse may have a different idea about which property belongs to whom so, in order to clarify everything, there are a few things that your divorce attorney will recommend first:
1. Make a Thorough List of All Your Valuables
These include the possessions that were directly given to you (not to the both of you) or patrimony items that have been passed down to you and are now rightfully yours. If you intend to leave the marital residence, as soon as the inventory is complete, it might be a good idea to move everything to a safer, easily accessible location. Make sure you collect all written proof that confirms and establishes your ownership. Needless to say, the more detailed the information, the better.
2. Make a Photo Inventory of Joint Property
Except for a business run by only one of the spouses, you both have equal rights to the common assets within your residence. Take photos of all joint property items and appropriate any hard to find or particularly meaningful items that you don’t want to replace. Equally important: draft a complete list (photos included) of the significant items that you did not appropriate.
3. Consider Hiring an Appraiser
In order to ensure that all parties are fairly compensated, hire a professional to appraise your real estate and additional valuable assets. Go over all value carrying items, including joint business ventures and retirement plans (if that applies). If you are a business owner yourself, consider enrolling the services of a forensic accountant who will be instrumental in correctly interpreting business records to accurately value your business and handle all fiduciary matters. Should you need help finding any (or all) of these professionals, talk to your attorney – chances are that he/ she can recommend trustworthy practitioners.
All Hands on Deck
It’s hard to temper down self-preservation instincts when disagreement turns to conflict. Reason loses its voice, Emotion goes into overdrive and you tend to forget that every coin has two sides; your spouse has the same rights as you.
So? How do you ride the perfect storm?
You get help and you commit to following the professional advice and guidance you’re receiving until the dust settles. Choosing wisely now makes for a smooth sailing later.
Ryan Yarbrough is a small business consultant, speaker, and the manager at Davis Financial Services, a small business consulting firm.