The decision to end your marriage is likely a difficult one that you’ve been thinking about for some time. Most people concentrate on the emotional aspects of divorce and don’t spend enough time and energy focusing on the planning that needs to be done. Here are 5 things you should do before filing for divorce:
Make a plan.
Before you announce you want a divorce, you should have a plan for where you will live and how you will support yourself (and any children) financially. Part of the plan should include making an inventory of all your assets and debts, including how and when they were acquired. Plan for how you want to handle co-parenting and what you will say to your children about your upcoming split.
Getting a divorce isn’t free. You need to have the financial resources to hire an attorney and pay for other legal expenses. You also want to have a fund to cover your living expenses during the divorce, especially if you are moving out of your home.
Hire a lawyer.
You need an attorney to help you navigate the divorce process, so look for someone who is experienced, has good reviews from past clients, and is someone you feel comfortable with sharing the intimate details of your private life. You may get referrals from family or friends, or from legal directories. Just make sure you interview several candidates before you hire someone. Choosing the right lawyer is critical to the outcome of your case, so put some effort into finding the right lawyer for you.
Your attorney will need all your financial records — yours alone (if you have any separate from your spouse) and your marital financial records. These include statements from bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, credit card accounts as well as tax returns for the past three years, loan information (mortgage, car, personal) and a list of assets and debts that you had prior to the marriage and those you accumulated during the marriage. You will need to provide proof of income (W-2 or 1099 forms) as well.
Do not expect to be able to use the judge or the judicial process as a hammer to hit your spouse over the head – it doesn’t work that way. Family courts are interested only in following the law, not in assessing fault and dispensing punishment. If children are involved, the court will do what is best for the children – which usually means taking every measure to ensure both spouses remain involved in the lives of those children.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often proves crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.