Divorce can be one of the hardest experiences of a person’s life.
“It is a death,” says Leigh Taylor White of Thomas, White & Gill, a family law practice that provides customized, comprehensive legal services to clients in Tennessee and North Mississippi. “It’s a death of a relationship, in a sense, and certainly of what a younger version of yourself had envisioned for your future.”
People going through a divorce must also sort through financial and legal matters and often have no idea where to start. “A lot of people don’t have a grasp even on the simplest aspects of their assets and that leads to a lot of added legal fees,” says Lisa Gill, who’s also a partner at Thomas, White & Gill.
Each month, Thomas, White & Gill helps present the Second Saturday Divorce Workshop, which covers the legal, financial, family and personal issues of divorce with the guidance of experts. We talked to Leigh Taylor and Lisa about five of the most important questions someone should consider before filing for divorce.
5 Things to Consider Before You File for Divorce
What assets and liabilities do my spouse and I currently have?
“When you’re talking about assets and liabilities, usually you’re talking about what do we own and who do we owe,” Lisa explains.
Before seeing your lawyer, gather as much documentation of assets and liabilities as you can. This would include the deed to your home and any other real estate, Lisa says. Also, gather income tax returns and six months of bank and credit card statements and investment and retirement account statements.
Leigh Taylor adds that promissory notes and any documentation regarding outstanding loans should be collected, too.
“The more information you can bring in, the better advice you’re going to get,” says Leigh Taylor, who’s been practicing family law since 2005. “That gives us a clearer snapshot of what the marital estate is and what a reasonable division of that marital estate would be.”
When should I file for divorce?
When deciding when you should file for divorce, take into account your goals and plans.
“Let’s say you’re thinking about forming a business entity or doing some major business deal,” Leigh Taylor says. “Do I go on and file now and get the divorce done before I move on to this next part of my career?”
If you’re planning to relocate to a different city, this could affect child custody issues.
“So, if you’re thinking about moving,” Lisa says, “it would be good to talk to an attorney and decide whether or not you should do that before you file for a divorce.”
Why am I considering divorce?
“Be prepared to explain what your short- and long-term goals are so that the attorney can help you draft a plan based on your objectives,” Lisa says.
Even if you’re not completely sure you’re ready to end your marriage, Leigh Taylor says talking to a lawyer is useful as this will help you make a more informed decision. “If it’s something you’re even wondering about, it makes sense to educate yourself on the process,” she adds.
Who should be in my support network?
When considering divorce, reach out to friends and family for support, but don’t stop there. You also need professionals to guide you through the process, including an attorney, an accountant, a financial planner, and a therapist.
“Because divorce is such a life-changing situation, you really need to go to a professional,” Leigh Taylor stresses. “How are you going to make this financial situation work for you so you are thriving — not just surviving — after divorce?”
Leigh Taylor says this is a question that a professional can help you answer. A friend telling you what she would do in your situation isn’t good enough. “That’s not getting real advice,” Leigh Taylor says. “That’s not someone looking at your portfolio, projected expenses, and income.”
Getting help from a financial planner and an accountant is especially crucial if you weren’t involved in money matters during your marriage.
Leigh Taylor and Lisa agree that a therapist or counselor is also invaluable during this process. “I don’t think that the emotional component can be underscored enough,” Leigh Taylor says. A therapist can help you deal with the emotional trauma of divorce, help you talk to your children about divorce, and even help you better communicate with your soon-to-be former spouse. A therapist or counselor can also serve as a neutral party and sounding board for your children.
How do I get the process started?
At the Second Saturday Workshop attendees receive a detailed checklist to help them begin gathering the documents they’ll need to present to their attorney. The workshop addresses the legal, financial, and emotional aspects of divorce. Lisa and Leigh have partnered with Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, the largest certified public accounting firm in the South, to help cover financial matters. Representatives from Forward Counseling discuss the emotional impact of divorce. “The workshop walks somebody through what to expect,” Lisa explains.
When working with someone who’s considering or going through a divorce, Leigh Taylor says, she simply tries to put herself in her client’s shoes. “What if I were in their situation? What would I need?” Leigh Taylor says. “That’s what I think about whenever I’m meeting with a client.”
If you’re considering divorce and want to speak to the professionals at Thomas, White & Gill, click HERE to request an appointment.
This article is sponsored by Thomas, White & Gill. All photography by Erin Mosher.