Many couples don’t want to take the bitter approach to a divorce. The marriage is over, and they just want to divide up property and work out a parenting plan to move on with their lives. If you’re looking at a collaborative divorce, you should still talk to an attorney before signing any papers. A collaborative divorce is where both parties work with unbiased experts, such as mediators, who can help them through the resolution process without fighting and bitterness. According to the American Bar Association, divorce mediation is often 40 to 60 percent lower than divorce litigation. Here are seven items that should be discussed with your own attorney when you’re planning a divorce to ensure your rights are protected.

1. Financial status – You can’t only think about income, bank accounts and assets. You have to dig deeper and make sure you’ve covered all the loans you’ve taken out. It would be a good idea to run a credit check to make sure you’ve remembered all your financial holdings and debts. Don’t forget stocks and bonds that were bought during the marriage. If you and your spouse are named in a civil lawsuit, this should be on your list, too.

2. Retirement – Even if the retirement account is privately owned by one spouse, it should be discussed during an attorney session. A professional actuary may need to value the plan or work out what was earned before the marriage and after.

3. Vehicles – If only one spouse’s name is on the title, or if the vehicle was purchased during the marriage, it falls under marital property.

4. Real estate – The home is probably one of the biggest assets in the marriage. As with vehicles, if it was purchased during the marriage, it should be included in the divorce settlement as marital property. You should consider having real estate appraised for a current valuation. Discuss all properties with your attorney.

5. Children’s assets – Any financial property owned by children must also be addressed in a divorce settlement. College savings plans, CDs, 529 plans and savings accounts should be discussed with your attorney to protect their assets.

6. Going back to college – If you’re planning on taking out student loans to get your education, you should talk about this to your attorney just to make sure there are no barriers to taking on this debt or getting the loans.

7. Taxes – Don’t forget to work out how federal, state and local taxes are handled in your mediation settlement. Understand the IRS regulations for handling child support and which person can claim the children on their end-of-the-year tax forms.

We understand that many people going through a divorce want to be in control of their own destiny instead of relying on a judge to split the assets and determine child custody and support. Our divorce lawyers routinely handle divorce mediation and collaboration to save you stress, time and inconvenience. Call us today to discuss your case and your concerns.