The only divorce checklist you need


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Whether you are planning to leave a bad (or even dangerous) relationship, or have already mutually and amicably agreed to part ways with your spouse, the key to a healthy breakup in which both parties land on their feet is to plan ahead, put your emotions at bay as much as you can and approach the next weeks and months as a business arrangement.

Almost all of the following items apply whether you are/were married or were living together with children and combined assets.

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Come up with a parenting agreement


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Legally, both parents have equal access to their collective children until either a divorce is filed (at which time a parenting agreement must also be submitted), or you file a custody/visitation agreement in family court.

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Find a lawyer/mediator

Even if you decide to DIY your divorce or separation, get an attorney to look over and verify all of the legal documents to make sure that you never have to revisit these things!

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Consider a therapist

Because you probably need one, and the kids do too.

Consider online therapy, which is cheaper and more convenient than in-person couch time.

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Check your health insurance

Likely, if you are getting divorced, there will be some changes to your health insurance situation.

This is something that you can negotiate in your breakup since, as you know, health insurance is crazy expensive and you likely will be sharing the cost of your kids’ coverage with their other parent.

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Watch your credit

Divorce and breakups are some of the most common times when credit fraud can occur.

Fighting exes can steal your personal information to take on loans or open credit cards in your name, fail to pay debts they agreed to and, sadly, steal children’s identities.

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Collect the documents!

You will need all of these documents to be able to appropriately settle your divorce.

It’s a lot, but the sooner you collect the following documents, the easier this process will be.

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Consider your bank accounts

These include checking, savings accounts, CDs and money market accounts. Determine whether you need to separate them, close them or leave them as is.

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List all assets of any value

If there is any question of their value, get them appraised. These can include:

  • Real estate
  • Jewelry
  • Art
  • Cars and other vehicles of significant value
  • Time shares
  • Any personal items of significant resale value, such as clothes, handbags, sports equipment, furniture, furs and electronics
  • Mortgages

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Don’t forget retirement accounts

Retirement accounts that you need to consider include IRAs, Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, SEP IRAs, 403(b)s, 457’s Thrift Savings Plans, TIAA-CREF,  pensions and Social Security benefits.

This will all need to be discussed and likely divided in your split.

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Shore up credit card, tax and personal loan debt

Like it or not, you are likely on the hook for any debt accrued during your marriage.

Dig up documentation of all statements, including interest rates and due dates.

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Don’t overlook student loans

Student debt taken on before you married is likely going to stay with the person who signed the loan.

However, if the debt was assumed during the marriage, it is likely the responsibility of both parties (at least to some degree), and can get messy.

Come to the table with all of the information you can collect, including dates the deeds were signed, terms of the loans and whether they were used just for school, books, fees or living expenses.

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Get your tax filings in order

Must-have tax documents include:

  • Copies of state and federal tax returns for the previous three years and all corresponding W-2 or 1099 statements
  • Copies of corporate tax returns for the previous three years if one or both spouses have a business
  • Car notes, income information, pay stubs and tax returns

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Buy life & disability policies if you don’t have them

Every parent of a minor-age child needs life insurance no matter how much money you earn or what financing you depend on. Fortunately, there are affordable and easy ways to find life insurance for almost every budget.

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Prepare a will and estate document

Now more than ever, as a single parent, if you do not have a will, you need one.

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Create an independent financial life

The sooner you see yourself as an autonomous woman and an independent adult who is capable of living alone and being a financially independent person, the sooner you will move on from your divorce. This includes a plan to be free of child support and alimony, building a career or business that you love and earns more than you need, having a solid savings and an investment strategy, and living in a home you can comfortably afford.

This will all likely take time, therapy and lots of hard work. But the more you fight with your ex, the longer you drag out the divorce. The more you try to get from them financially, the longer the pain, heartbreak and poverty will last. Let it go. Move on. Forgive. Go forward.

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Earn more

Statistically, you are likely to be poorer after your breakup than when you were living full-time with another adult. When you feel broke, you live in fear and make decisions out of fear. It is easy to focus on budgeting and saving: Clipping coupons, cutting expenses and putting your energy into less. This can not only create a poverty mentality, but it also doesn’t make sense to spend your time and energy on these efforts. After all, you can only save so much. When it comes to earning, the sky is the limit!

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Save and invest more

During this difficult time, do not fall prey to the urges of well-meaning friends and media messages that tell you to treat yourself.

Yes, take care of your physical, mental and spiritual well being.

But unless you can easily afford to, this list does not include expensive spa treatments, vacations or other luxuries. It is not a treat if it results in the expense of debt and worry about paying the rent!

Long-term, accept that you are statistically likely to be solely responsible for your own saving and investing.

Make decisions aimed at not being dependent on your children in your later years (or in the event you become sick or disabled).

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Get support

Whether from trusted family and friends, a support group or an online community like Millionaire Single Moms on Facebook, you need people who understand what you are going through and who will be a great sounding board and source of advice.

Divorce is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful life events, but remember that it is passing and that life will get better.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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