6 Divorce Moving Out Checklists To Keep You On Track Even When It Feels Impossible

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divorce moving out checklist
Heartbreak

Never, ever did you plan for this. Your “happily ever after” has a downer ending, and now you must not only grieve the loss of your personal dream and move on, but you must also literally move out.

Your emotions are likely to be in the driver’s seat and can take you down a long and dangerously, winding road with cliffs and crevices all around. Slow down, pull over, and stop.

Pause and recognize that while relationships are emotional in their startup and ending, both marriage and divorce are contractual. This is business. And any time emotions take over in business, fair and rational decision making, problem-solving and communicating may not be possible.

The first separation that needs to occur is in your thinking. Separate the emotion of divorce from the business of divorce and you are already on your way to a better outcome.

Having worked in support for separation and divorce for more than 25 years, I asked my clients what would be most helpful to them on a divorce moving out checklist. Based on their feedback, here are multiple lists to make keep the process simple.

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Here are 6 Divorce moving out checklists to follow:

Divorce moving out checklist 1: Before moving out

The first checklist is all about what you should prepare in advance for the move-out day. Preparation is key for a successful experience in anything.

Make sure you have:

1. Camera or fully charged phone with camera.

2. If no printer/scanner is available at the residence, download and learn how to use an app on your phone that allows you to scan and upload documents.

3. Clipboard, pen and paper for creating inventory list or laptop/tablet to create inventory spreadsheet as you pack.

4. Boxes, protective wrapping, packing tape, scissors or hire a professional moving company with supplies.

5. Special container or file box for financial, legal and important papers to be kept with you (not packed away, stored or sent with movers).

6. USB key (or two) for downloading and storing information from the family computer.

7. Suitcase to pack a few days’ worth of clothing and toiletries to cover immediate needs while setting up and unpacking in a new location.

8. Will you be needing a storage unit for some of your belongings? Secure it now. 

9. Submit a change of address for mail forwarding to the post office.

10. Request the support of a non-emoting friend or family member to help pack, inventory, and keep you on track.

11. Schedule a session with your coach or therapist to have you grounded and prepared to deal with the emotions that will try to hijack moving day and how to best manage the relationship should your spouse be present.

Note: Keep details and receipts related to moving costs in case they will be covered by your spouse in the divorce agreement.

Divorce moving out checklist 2: Moving out day

Be ready for some tedious, but important detailed photography, scanning and copying.  Ideally, you will have reviewed with your attorney the paperwork you will need to provide, but there is more to consider to help you on your journey later.

Use that special container or file box for any original documents or photocopies from this category. And, remember to keep this box with you — do not send it with the moving company or put it in storage.

1. Photograph each room of the residence.

Start with a walkthrough of the residence and photograph all of the furnishings and wall hangings. It's easy to forget what was there once you leave. This will be a great reference when you negotiate property division.

Open drawers and closets, and if you notice something missing, note it. If there is a garage, attic or storage unit, do the same thing.

2. Photograph, scan or copy the wedding guest and gift list. This may help you remember if the blender came from your aunt and the toaster from your spouse’s cousin. It will make it easier to negotiate some of the property and conversation will be smoother at your family holiday dinner when you tell Aunt Annie that you kept her blender.

3. Photograph, scan or copy any contact lists of friends and family. Also, if there are children in the marriage, their friends’ and classmates’ lists for playdates and any extracurricular activity information.

4. Photograph, scan or copy any individual, common, and shared legal, government, financial and medical paperwork. If there are children in the marriage, be sure to include what pertains to them.

You will need these details in the future, and if there is conflict in the newly defined relationship with your ex-spouse, information sharing may not be what you hope. Items to ensure you have information about includes, but is not limited to:

I. Marriage certificate

II. Pre or postnuptial agreements

III. Birth certificates

IV. Social security cards

V. Passports

VI. Deed to residence/mortgage paperwork

VII. Other real estate info

VIII. Bank accounts

IX. Loan or debt information

X. Investment accounts (stocks, bonds, IRAs, etc)

XI. Insurance policies (home, life, auto, etc)

XII. Credit card accounts

XIII. Vehicle information

XIV. Wills and trust agreements

XV. Income tax returns

XVI. Employment records

XVII. Pension plan information

XVIII. Health records

XIX. Vaccine records

XX. Other family records (e.g., deceased family)

XXI. Any legal judgment or lien for or against either of you

XXII. Prior marriage/divorce information for either of you

XXIII. Evidence - should your divorce be related to adultery, financial infidelity (e.g. gambling addiction), physical, emotional or substance abuse, mental instability or some other circumstance in which there is documentation that can help support your claims and assist your attorney in your case for child custody or another legal pursuit should your case be ongoing. 

Divorce moving out checklist 3: Personal items and other valuables

Pack your personal, valuable and sentimental items. Be sure to inventory, label, and number the box(es), and have your witness and, ideally, your spouse sign off on it. This may protect you from future accusations or disagreements.

You'll want to make sure you have:

1. Jewelry

2. Gifts to you

3. Inheritances

4. Items you owned prior to the marriage

RELATED: 10 Ways To Survive Your Worst Breakup (And Bounce Back Stronger)

Divorce moving out checklist 4: Household items

Pack some household items to help get you set up in your new location; be fair and share. Again, inventory, label and number your boxes. Get the sign-offs if possible.

If you take the good sheets, leave the good towels, right? If there is only one mop and one broom, is it worth it? Even though you may temporarily reside in an apartment, you may want that unopened power washer one day, so don’t leave that behind! 

Hopefully, you will be able to come to an amicable agreement. After all, these are just things.

Make sure to sort through:

1. Kitchen essentials

2. Laundry essentials

3. Bedding essentials

4. Bath essentials

5. Personal toiletries

6. Cleaning equipment

7. Lawn care equipment

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Divorce moving out checklist 5: Furniture and electronics

It’s best to decide the more expensive household furnishings, electronics and decor with legal mediation. Again, play fair.

Are there children in this marriage? Where will they spend most of their time? Will your new residence come furnished? Think about what's best for everyone, including yourself.

And what about pets? For some, pets are an additional custody issue that may have to be mediated as well.

Even in furnishings, if there is anything of sentimental value, anything that was yours prior to the marriage, prevent regret and plan to move it with you. Consider these things:

1. Indoor furniture (sofas, tables, chairs, lamps, etc.)

2. Outdoor furniture

3. TVs

4. Computers

5. Video game consoles and games

6. Toys

7. Art

8. Decor

9. Framed family photos

RELATED: 5 Thoughtful Ways To Decide Who Should Move Out When Getting Divorced

Divorce moving out checklist 6: After moving out

You did it! You navigated a very mentally and physically exhausting experience. There are still a few things left to do to consider it complete.

These are all a matter of communication, and most can be done online. Get them done, and take your time setting up your new place when you can approach it as a fresh start. You do have a suitcase with all you need for a few days to get you by, right?

If so, you're ready to do these things next: 

1. Update address with your workplace

2. Update address with any government agencies

3. Update address with insurance companies

4. Update address with friends and family

5. Update beneficiary information on all insurance policies

6. Change healthcare directive if applicable

7. Change will

Divorce is a huge ordeal

You don't have to do it alone. Let your therapist or coach help you through your emotional healing journey, while your lawyer or mediator assists you through the legal journey.

Before you begin to move out, first meet with your attorney or mediator and affirm the timing as the move-out date can be attached to financial obligations.

It is important to distinguish between trial separation, permanent separation, legal separation and divorce. While one of the separation types may lead to divorce, it is important to know the differences, and how the date of your move out affects your rights and responsibilities with each.

To help focus on the business of moving out, there is no better tool than a divorce moving out checklist to keep you on track. Don’t kid yourself — it will be an emotional event to move out, even if it was your choice, so thinking you will be clear-headed and on top of it is simply naive.

Whether you walked out, were pushed out, forced out or locked out, you are entitled to your property. You have rights. Stay calm and find out what they are and how to proceed — remember, this is business.

Be the CEO of your life, and consider divorce as a major transaction. Just because your spouse may be behaving emotionally or has a stronger personality, it doesn’t mean you don’t have permission to access your residence and your belongings.

However, do so through the proper channels so that it is documented and so that there can be no appearances of abandonment or abuse.

Should divorce ultimately become the final destination, and moving out inevitable, schedule the move-out, take your checklists, and check your emotions at the door. This is business. There will be a time and place for crying later.

RELATED: Why Fantasizing About Divorce Isn't Necessarily A Bad Thing

Ann Papayoti, PCC, is an author, speaker, and coach helping people untangle from their past, heal their hearts, and unlock their best life. She is the co-author of the intimate self-help guide, The Gift of Shift. For more information on how she can help you, visit her website.