COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For many, the holidays are about celebrating and spending time with family. For others, it's about breaking ties with family, as in your mate.
January 2nd has become the most likely day for couples to start the divorce process, according to industry insiders.
January seems to be the time they say, "I'm ready for a new start."
A fresh start after a holiday season that can often illuminate a couples unmet expectations. Experts say the stress of the holidays can magnify martial problems and financial stresses in any household.
Divorce attorney Ken Lester says many people want to get through the holidays without disrupting the family.
"They see that maybe life should be so much better than it seems to be in their homes," said Financial Analyst Barbara Saylor.
But even if you don't have the life or marriage you desire, getting a divorce isn't a quick solution.
"Normally it takes somewhere around a year if there's any assets or any children involved," said Lester.
So who's most likely to part after the ball drops, and the lights and tinsel come down?
"Surprisingly I would say most of my clients are at the 20 year or above length of marriage," said Saylor.
Here's a list of tips from Saylor that can help you get through and plan your divorce:
a. There may be the sense that the magic and joy of the season will somehow in and of itself repair what's broken
Example: couple takes the romantic summer vacation or big family vacation during the summer or holiday season in an attempt to heal their marriage. Unfortunately, that usually will not fix the problem.
b. It is easy to watch the holiday commercials and TV specials and feel that life should be the Norman Rockwell, Happy Days experience. Like the ads, perhaps we believe that we should step out our front door in the glistening snow to find the luxury vehicle fresh off the showroom floor wrapped up with the gigantic red bow on the hood. If this is NOT your life and you are struggling financially with bills, debt – perhaps a little, maybe A LOT – it is tempting to think that a divorce may be the answer and provide a fresh start financially. In actuality and for most couples, that is rarely the case. It is quite common for the standard of living to decline significantly after divorce.
1) Seek a good marriage and family counselor- they will help you see what the problems are in the marriage and help you determine if there is way to work through them to heal the marriage and relationships.
2) Whether or not you seek counseling, you must perform a REALISTIC assessment of your financial situation – EYES WIDE OPEN:
a. Since financial problems are VERY often are one of the primary causes for marital discord, preparing a REALISTIC household budget and financial assessment may go a long way toward repairing the marriage. If the current household income is not sufficient to support the current expense structure then it's very likely this will only get worse after the divorce unless there are significant reductions in the spending.
b. REALISTIC means to also prepare a budget for yourself assuming you are divorced – Determine what it will cost you to live on your own when there are two households to support. You will need to know how much house you will be able to (comfortably and safely) afford --- and realize that may not be the home you currently own, how much mortgage can you obtain on your own income, will you have sufficient financial liquidity for a down payment; will the current home need to be sold, and if so, what will be the FULL cost to sell it and time frame; if the current home will have negative equity upon its sale, is there available liquidity to close on the home; what is the cost of any consumer debt you will be carrying; will you be able to obtain other credit in your own name; consider the loss of plan cost efficiencies such as when two phone plans or car insurance policies will be purchased separately; what about cost of healthcare when each spouse is responsible for their own; you will need to have a realistic estimate for the actual cost of the divorce;
c. When evaluating the budget that you are preparing assuming you are divorced, it is important to also have a REALISTIC expectation for alimony and child support. Sometimes spouses enter into the divorce process with a belief that the court is going to award unrealistic levels of alimony – perhaps even as a 'punishment' to the other spouse for wrongdoing. Those kinds of unrealistic expectations can have an extremely devastating effect on a spouse's standard of living after the divorce. A divorce settlement may leave very significant future expenses very uncertain and up for grabs such as: college expenses, vehicles for children, cost for weddings, etc.
d. Outside of the budget, it is important for spouses to know exactly what they own (whether individually or jointly), what they owe, and where all the documents are kept. This information will be critical for your divorce case, but it can become much more difficult to obtain all of the necessary information after separation.
For spouses that have tried to work out their differences but have determined that a divorce is necessary, then pursuing a collaborative divorce is one available option that is designed to provide the transparency and the open, respectful, and realistic dialogue throughout the process to salvage emotions, relationships, and finances while avoiding the unrealistic financial assumptions and common pitfalls. This is especially important when children are involved.
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