First, there is shock. Whether it was your spouse's idea or your suggestion, the realization that your union won't last "'til death do us part" requires a major mental reset.
Second, there are questions. Will it be expensive? What happens to my retirement money?
How will I begin to start over and have a new life? What about the kids?
Finding answers is not always easy. Often, it requires phone calls and meetings with multiple professionals. Now women can gather these responses all at once - at a monthly divorce workshop in Raleigh called Second Saturday Wake County.
The workshop offers women in the Triangle a safe place to get the score from experts in the field. They explain all the aspects of the process, step by step.
- In attendance are:
- an attorney who's a board-certified family law specialist
- a family therapist
- a financial professional who specializes in divorce.
While each divorce is unique and involves individual issues, here's a brief look at the essential information.
The legal points surrounding divorce can be complex and thorny.
What you need to know:
- Before filing for divorce in North Carolina, your spouse and you must have lived separately for one year.
- The basic fees for a Wake County divorce are $225 plus a charge for serving the papers, roughly $30. In addition, an attorney will bill for handling your divorce, so be sure to ask about her rates.
- The divorce takes place 45 to 60 days after the other party is served. However, mediation, counseling, and discussions between parties about how to divide assets or handle child custody often take longer.
Even the person initiating a divorce will feel an emotional impact. Such a separation is a huge change in your life and the lives of your children.
What to do:
- Consider family therapy to help your kids understand that this is not about them.
- Be sure you find your own support through therapy, a divorce support group, friends and family. It's natural to feel guilty or angry about divorce, but your support system can help you through it.
- Try learning something novel to help you kick off your new life.
No matter the legal terms of your divorce, your monetary picture will change. Women often end up with less disposable income, even after child support or alimony. Those who left careers to care for children may struggle to re-enter the workforce.
Steps to take:
- Speak to a financial adviser. Things may be different now, so make sure you have a plan in place. Remember to give time to what may seem like far-off issues, such as retirement.
- Consider the fiscal implications of all your decisions. For example, the person paying alimony can deduct it as an expense on a tax return, while the ex-spouse who receives it will be taxed for the income.
- Think about selling the house. Your mortgage payment may be too high to sustain on your new income. While it can be difficult to let go, it might be best for your budget in the long run.
The Second Saturday workshop, which can be found nationwide, is an arm of the Women's Institute for Financial Education. WIFE is the oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to providing such education. Learn more at secondsaturdaywakecounty.com.
Wendy Coulter, president & CEO of Hummingbird Creative Group in Cary, serves on the advisory board of Second Saturday Wake County Divorce Workshops.