Be Realistic about Your Divorce Settlement

High-profile divorce settlements make the news all the time. People love to read about other people’s unhappiness; the juicy details of a failed marriage and an astronomical price tag make popular stories. However, if you’re going through a divorce, you must separate what you read in the news from your own situation. Be realistic about your divorce settlement; just because some celebrity got several million in a divorce doesn’t mean you’ll be set for life when you divorce your spouse.

Talk to a divorce lawyer about what you can expect.

Divorce lawyers know the law. They can look at your relationship, any documentation you might have signed like a pre-nup or a post-nup and weigh the factors to determine approximately what you can expect.

Don’t look for a lawyer to give you a hard number on an initial consultation; negotiating a settlement is exactly that – a negotiation. A divorce settlement depends on a number of factors that may not be clear in the beginning, so any information a divorce lawyer gives you about potential settlement amounts is purely speculation, and should not be used as a guideline.

You’ll need a clear financial picture to negotiate a divorce settlement.

Before you can truly negotiate a divorce settlement, you need a clear financial picture of the status of finances in the marriage. You’ll need documentation about your income, your spouse’s income, joint debts, joint assets – a complete financial breakdown of both parties.

If your spouse manages to hide assets, you may not be able to negotiate an equitable settlement based on the full value of the relationship. If you think your spouse is going to be resistant to an equitable settlement, you may want to begin gathering financial documentation early, before your spouse has a chance to begin moving things around.

Your way of life will change.

The point of an equitable settlement is to split assets fairly and evenly between you and your spouse. If you didn’t bring much to the marriage, you may not take much from the marriage. Don’t expect that just because your spouse had assets prior to the marriage, you’ll get to take any of that with you.

Bottom line: even in a best-case-scenario equitable settlement, your way of life will change. One income doesn’t go as far as two, and without being able to split the costs for housing, utilities, etc., you’ll be paying more than you expect to support yourself. Even if you get alimony, it may not be enough to maintain your current way of life, so you should resign yourself to that fact when the divorce begins and develop reasonable expectations about your divorce settlement.