If you are contemplating divorce, it is important to understand the process. Separating is stressful, but this can be minimized if you know what’s coming. There are professionals who can help guide you, ease the process, and protect your interests. The most important thing to know is that you are not alone. In my work with mid-career professionals at various stages of the divorce process, I help them take control and establish financial independence. Recently I sat down with my colleague, Chris Rhim, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, for an informative discussion on financial issues related to divorce.

Let’s start at the beginning. What is the first thing to do upon separation?

Well, this answer may be surprising but I would actually advise a person not to make any immediate changes. The divorce process is an emotionally charged occurrence that can be defined in years not months. When the spouse moves out, the waiting period begins for divorce. While most states do not impose a mandatory waiting period, some, such as Massachusetts, Vermont and Montana have a six-month waiting period. A person should take advantage of this time to review finances, gather all legal contracts and documents, review debt obligations and determine the current family budget.

How much should someone expect to pay in legal and other professional fees?

Divorce costs may vary widely. Divorce mediation where the couple works with a mediator could be a few thousand dollars. Collaborative divorce could range from $10-$16,000. Disputed or contested divorce cases could easily range from $20,000 to six-figures, depending on the complexity and size of the case. Generally, the larger the asset pool, the longer it takes to hammer out a divorce agreement.

Are there special considerations for parents going through divorce?

Yes. States have formulas for determining the amount awarded for child support due to the custodial parent up until the child reaches the age of 18, the age of majority, or once the child completes high school. Beyond that, the remainder of future support for children is typically negotiated. For example, who pays for college and incidental expenses? What about summer camps, vacation travel, medical insurance or clothing? These expenses and more will continue well beyond the dissolution of the marriage. Failure to address these may lead to ongoing battles with an ex-spouse. Other considerations include deciding on the best custodial home for the children, visitation schedules, and the psychological needs of children during the divorce.

As you can see, there is much to consider. Please join us for one of our Second Saturday Divorce Information Sessions taking place in Brookline, MA. Second Saturday offers non-biased financial, emotional and legal advice to provide you with the knowledge supports, resources and trust you need to survive the divorce process.

Kelly Luethje is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and founder of Willow Planning Group, LLC. She provides financial education and guidance to help Generation X live life on their terms.

Chris Rhim is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. He is the founder of Green View Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor dedicated to comprehensive financial planning and taking a holistic view of clients and their lives.