In response to continuing reader requests for a list of helpful hints and tips about the divorce process, here are half of what we consider to be the "Top 20 Tips" you need to know. Next week, the ten will be printed. To find the full text of these and other basic tips about the divorce process, be sure to visit The Flying Solo Web Site which is located at http://www.flyingsolo.com, click on "Divorce and Separation" and then "Frequently Asked Questions."
TIP #1: Because of continued emotional and economic ties, divorce is not an "over and out" transition. So be sure to establish credit, understand and address taxation, get security for payments, and begin estate, retirement, and health care planning before you divorce.
TIP #2: Getting security for payments of child support and alimony is important. Without it, should the paying spouse die while owing child support and alimony, the recipient spouse and children may receive nothing other than Social Security.
TIP #3: Because there are different rules for different types of pensions and because there are alternatives available regarding lump sum or monthly distributions after retirement, find out early in the case which rules apply to your situation.
TIP #4: Because the family home may be the largest asset acquired during the marriage, a court may deem it unfair to let one party use the residence and tie up the other's equity for a long period of time -- without an agreement to the contrary.
TIP #5: The breakup of a marriage is like the breakup of a business partnership. The assets -- and the liabilities - will be divided. Although the methods by which the property is divided vary from state to state, when you get your share, you must be prepared to invest it wisely.
TIP #6: Consider an interim will and a durable power of attorney after separation to insure that no more of your estate than necessary will pass to your estranged spouse. And make sure to change the beneficiaries on your life and accident policies when you separate.
TIP #7: Spell out guardianship and child-related financial provisions in your will because if you don't specify how you want your children raised and supported, a court may do it for you -- without you being there to object.
TIP #8: Since divorce generally involves continued contact, and since circumstances change, be prepared to face such issues as remarriage, relocation, changed income, illness, and bankruptcy.
TIP #9: Since your agreement or court order will probably change over time, try to cover all anticipated bases and avoid ambiguity in your papers. If something comes up that no one expected, without planning a way in which to handle change, you can count on having your lives disrupted again.
TIP #10: Check the status of your credit before the divorce. If you're authorized to use a credit card, but are not obligated on the account (which is often the case), you may have no credit history and therefore no credit. If an account is used by both of you during the marriage, that does not necessarily mean that both of you have credit ratings and credit histories.
SoloFact: After divorce, spouses should make sure to change the beneficiary of their pensions to avoid unintended results. Some courts have ruled that even though a former spouse has signed a general waiver of rights to the pension, if the beneficiary not changed, the former spouse may still be entitled to the proceeds. Therefore, it is a good idea to 1) specifically identify the pension in the waiver and 2) make sure to change of beneficiary immediately after divorce so it will not be forgotten.
Jan Collins is an award-winning writer and editor. Jan Warner is a matrimonial, elder, and tax attorney. Both are based in Columbia, South Carolina. Flying Solo is seen in newspapers throughout the United States.
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