What you need to know before you sign on the dotted line
When my husband and I divorced, our divorce settlement was pretty cut and dry, as we both knew what we wanted, and we didn’t have to compromise on much. Our biggest issue was getting some of the language changed regarding future school choices for our daughters—although I agreed he should have a say in the process of choosing the schools, my ex-husband wanted the final say. However, since I started working at a law firm as a legal assistant, I realized there were things in our agreement I overlooked, some of which will land us back at the negotiation table.
For Solo Moms who may be in the midst of divorce proceedings, here are some important things to consider before you sign on the dotted line.
Are you planning to change your last name? If so, make sure that’s addressed in your divorce decree. In most states, the legal process of changing your name is easier to do after your divorce is final—and sometimes even the fee is waived.
Work out long distance visitation and custody . . . even if you don’t think you need it. One thing my ex-husband and I didn’t consider during our divorce was how child custody and visitation would work after he made a change of duty station, as he is in the military. Currently, we are back at the negotiation table because we somehow overlooked this issue. Even if you don’t think either of you will ever move, it’s best to address it so that those stipulations automatically go into effect if it ever does happen. The biggest lesson I learned throughout the divorce process is that the most unexpected things can and will happen, so the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to be prepared for anything.
Double-check the child-support calculations. In most states, each party will be asked to fill out a financial affidavit, which is a worksheet that shows the outlook of your finances so child support can be accurately calculated. The form varies from state to state, but in most states, it can be accessed online so you know what to expect before your or your spouse’s attorney asks you to fill it out. Filling it out accurately is extremely important because if you knowingly lie on the form, you can be held accountable for perjury, which is punishable by a fine and/or jail time. Before you sign the final agreement, double-check to make sure the information related to child support is correct, such as the gross or net incomes listed, and that the process for any freelance income was done properly, as some states will have you deduct a percentage to account for the extra taxes those with freelance income pay.
Don’t treat divorce like a game—you can’t win at divorce! Something I experienced in my own divorce and see in the law firm where I work is couples treating their divorce as a game, with the mindset that they’re going to win something. In the end, playing games to “win” what you want in the divorce isn’t worth the effort, especially if you have children. Sure, I wish I could have snagged the cool Crock-Pots or the fireplace heater that I picked out during our marriage, but those things are just that—things—and they can be replaced. Focus your time and money on you and your children, and on rebuilding your life, instead of on legal fees to fight your ex-spouse in court. If you and your ex can’t agree on things such as property disbursement or child-custody specifics, the best thing to do is invest in mediation.
Familiarize yourself with collaborative divorce law. Until I started working for an attorney, I had no idea what collaborative divorce law was, let alone that it was gaining traction in the legal community. Attorneys are now trained in how to facilitate a divorce without litigation, or the need to argue it out in front of a judge. This approach not only helps you save money but also eliminates the possibility of someone who doesn’t know the intricacies of your life from making decisions for your family. This is a great option for couples that already have most of the details worked out or want to make the best of a tough situation.
Remember that every divorce will be different because every family’s situation and needs are unique. The best thing you can do is put your personal feelings for your soon-to-be ex-spouse aside and do what is in the best interests of your family. That means you’ll sometimes get the short end of the stick, but you’ll help wounds heal more quickly so you can move on with your life.
If you are going through a divorce, consider joining Sisters Only to get support and connection from moms facing the same challenges.
Tara Glenn is a Solo Mom of four who currently resides in Pensacola, Florida. She has a background in public affairs, writing, and photography. Tara spent five years in the Navy and now volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol as a public affairs officer. She enjoys working with small businesses as a ghostwriter as well as encouraging her children’s love for aviation in her free time—the running joke being that she only creates pilots, as all of her children love to fly!
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