Some people have no time to plan for divorce. In the movie Old School, for example, the hero Mitch thinks he is in a happy relationship and then he catches the early flight home to surprise his significant other but instead sees “a couple of nude people jump out of his bathroom blindfolded like a crazy magic show.”
Many people are blindsided like that and have no time to devise a pre-divorce strategy, but you should plan if you can.
Consult a professional
Divorce is not rocket science. It can, however, be an archaic process with a lot of odd formalities. A mistake can cost you a lot of money, and hopefully, you only have to go through divorce once. So if you can you should first consult with someone that has done it many times.
An experienced divorce lawyer can tell you off the top of his or her head how the process will go, and you could spend countless hours on the internet trying to figure out the same thing. Plus, there are a lot of quirky courtroom tendencies that simply may not be written down anywhere for you to find without an experienced professional.
Collect important information
Superior knowledge is a huge advantage in a negotiation. This information can come in two main types. First, there is the procedural knowledge that a professional can help you understand. The second important type of information is understanding your factual situation.
Your pre divorce strategy should be developed with a full understanding of the assets you and your spouse have.
Most people fail to keep tabs on their net worth, for example. In divorce, a couple will have to split that net worth roughly in half (that can vary wildly depending on the situation, of course).
Think about it. How much is in your retirement account, right now? How much is your spouse’s pension worth? What is left on your mortgage? Does your spouse have student loans? If you cannot answer these questions you cannot develop a good strategy to split your assets.
Consider leading with a detailed offer
A lot of people will tell you to let the other side lead first in a negotiation, but that may not make sense in a divorce. If you have a superior understanding of both the process and your factual situation, it may be best for you to propose a settlement to your spouse.
For example, if you say “I want a divorce, you should hire a lawyer to negotiate with my lawyer,” your spouse will probably take some time to go hire a lawyer and then some more time to figure out what he or she wants to do.
On the other hand, if you put together a strong pre-divorce strategy you could approach your spouse and say “I want a divorce, here is how I propose to split up my assets, I want to come to an agreement and finalize this as quickly as possible.”
In that situation, your spouse might say “this seems fair enough” and decide not to spend the time and money on a lawyer. That could get you a quicker final divorce. If you make the first offer you can also benefit from a concept called “anchoring,” where the parties tend to negotiate around the edges of the first offer instead of completely changing course.