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If we already agree, why do we need to write it down?

"WHY?" Letter Collage (questions explanations help support how)It’s not unusual for couples who are separating to have thought about and maybe even agreed about some of their assets or liabilities, things like what to do with the house or how they’ll pay a credit card. It can feel unnecessary and like extra work to then have to find all the information about the value of every account, write it down, and talk it through. Yet, what may feel like a waste of time can actually save time and money in the long run.

Why? For one thing, you may not be aware of all the options. For another, making decisions without complete information can leave you unhappy with those decisions in the long run.

Here’s an example. If I told you that I really didn’t want your pension, you could keep it because I have a 401(k) of my own, that might seem reasonable. If, after the divorce, I find out that your pension will pay you $25,000 a year for the rest of your life, while I only have $86,000 in my 401(k), I’m likely to question my decision. Even invested at a good rate, I will never have the equivalent of $25,000 a year for life. If I had full information at the time of the divorce and still chose to waive my right to your pension, that was my choice and I have to live with it. If I didn’t have the information, conflict may ensue.

Part of the process of divorcing is identifying all of the marital assets and liabilities and gathering documentation. Working with a mediator can make the process less onerous as the mediator talks through each item with you and your spouse and provides worksheets to help you gather what is needed. It may feel overwhelming at times, but the decisions you make at the time of divorce will affect you the rest of your life. It is worth it to slow down and do it right.

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