March brings the first signs of spring and has many married people seeking a fresh start on their own.
“People are making decisions over the holidays and acting on them,” says to Randall Kessler, partner at Kessler and Solomiany Family Law in Atlanta. “It’s spring fever-- people want to start their lives anew.”
According to According to New York-based matrimonial attorney Steve Eisman, the month of March brings the highest number of divorces. He adds that along with seeking a fresh start, finances also play a major role in pushing people to separate at during this time of the year.
“A lot of bonuses come out in March. Finances can enter into the plan if the bonus wasn’t good enough, or now you have your bonus and you want out because you can forecast your earnings.”
On average, Kessler says divorces can cost at minimum between $1,000 and $2,000 if the couple is on amicable terms and has little to fight over and divide up. If there is some disagreement, but still little to divide up, the cost bumps up to between $5,000 and $10,000. When the picture gets more complicated with many assets to divide and children are involved, a divorce can run between $50,000 and $100,000. Those multi-million-dollar celebrity divorces making headlines often involve teams of lawyers and tons of assets, he says.
If you are considering springing a divorce on your spouse this spring, experts say the getting your finances in order is key. Here’s what lawyers suggest you should do before serving your mate with divorce papers.
Keep Good Records
“Divorce is very often a case of ‘he who has the best records wins,’” says New York City-based lawyer Raoul Felder. “Write down all of your expenses for each day over the course of a couple of weeks.”
Also be sure to collect all of your tax returns, year-end statements and credit card statements before filing. Some credit companies will break these records into categories so you can see what you spent on each area of life before you file, Felder adds.
When it comes to determining alimony, Kessler says the records you gather you include a budget and don’t be stingy.
“Don’t worry about being conservative, or worry that the judge will think you spend too much,” he says. “$8,000 a month may sound like a lot, but you can back up your request for money if you refine it. You will never get more money than what you ask for—it has to be based on need.”
Kessler says meeting with an attorney is not cheating and advises you do it before making any decisions.
“If you feel sick, you go to a doctor, you don’t wait until you have a heart attack. The best solution is to find a respected lawyer in your community and if you don’t like the lawyer, go meet a new one.”
Sitting down with a professional will help map out the procedures, what you should be doing and create an estimate of how much the process will cost.
Have Money Saved Up
News flash—this is your rainy day, so put that rainy day fund to use, says Felder. If you are contemplating a divorce, it could help to start saving some money on the side.
Even if you wind up getting a decent amount of child support or alimony, experts say it will likely be delayed, so it’s a good idea to have enough cash to pay for things like tuition bills, car payments and food.
With that said, Felder says not to drain a joint account before filing because it will make you look bad in front of a judge.
“Pay off your credit card, opt for the yearly payment plan if you have children in private school,” he says. “It’s better to go into this without debt, if you can.”
Step Away from the Computer
Many couple share computers, laptops and tables, and fail to have a secure email account which can lead to the other person discovering important divorce information, and Eisman says judges won’t be on your side when it comes to being digitally violated.
“There’s a lot of spyware out there that’s not necessarily electronic eavesdropping. D.A.s aren’t really keen on prosecuting this either.”
Now is also the time to get off Facebook or other online social networks, Eisman says these platforms can be a divorce attorney’s best friend.
“There is so much to start divorces on there, and so much to use during the course of a divorce. Keep your adulterous relationship, and paramours off Facebook until after you settle.”