The idea behind this guide is to explain some of the basic financial aspects of ending a marriage in terms that someone without a law degree can understand. Every marriage is different, and every divorce will be different. I can’t tell you exactly how every legal issue is going to go in your case. What I can do is give you some background working knowledge that will hopefully help you get a handle on the overall process. So, let’s begin with some general life and law lessons I have learned.

The first and foremost rule I have learned in regard to the financial aspects of divorce, and for that matter all aspects, is to GET A LAWYER. Lawyers are expensive, they use big words and Latin terms that make no sense – all true. However, in the long run, when your then ex-spouse has taken you for everything you are worth, it will prove more expensive NOT to have had one.

Now that you have a lawyer (hopefully a good one), the next rule is DON’T lie to him / her. Unless you are planning a crime or a fraud, your lawyer will be bound by the ethical rule of confidentiality to keep your secrets for you. Your lawyer is not your mom, your pastor or your school principal. What you own, what you have done, how much money you make, and so forth matter to your lawyer because of the legal implications of these things. You will not be grounded, tattled on, or sent to detention. It’s ok. Just tell the truth.

Rule three: Vengeance is expensive. It may be tempting if you and the soon-to-be-ex are on bad terms to ask your lawyer to try to drag things out, file every kind of motion and pleading there is, and generally try to stick it to the other side. But remember this – there is only one money pot. You, your soon-to-be-ex and your respective lawyers are all grabbing from the same pot. The longer your divorce is drawn out, the more the contents of that pot go to the lawyers in legal fees, meaning there is less in there left for you. Get vindictive enough and you and your moral victory may have to eat off the drive-thru value menu, while your lawyer takes a private jet to the Caribbean.