There’s more to filing for divorce than simply filing your petition with the court. The following are seven things you should do before you file to achieve a better outcome in your divorce.
It’s always a good idea to consult an attorney before you decide to file for divorce. An attorney can explain the divorce process, including mediation, financial disclosures, and the legal requirements. An attorney can also help you identify your goals regarding child custody and parent-time and the division of assets and debts.
Documentation is very important in a divorce. You should gather all the records you can regarding your financial and retirement accounts, mortgages and auto loans, credit card statements, tax returns, and pay stubs. Your attorney will need these records to better represent you and often courts require disclosure of these records to your spouse during the case. It’s important to gather these documents before you file for divorce because they can sometimes be difficult to gather after the divorce is filed.
If you have children, custody and parent-time, during and after the divorce, are probably your biggest concern. You should know that, absent extreme circumstances, the court will likely award you and your spouse joint custody of the children. It’s a good idea to sit down and carefully consider your work schedule, your children’s schedule, and other obligations you may have to outline the custody and parent-time arrangement you want. This will also help your attorney identify your goals during the initial consultation.
You should decide whether you want to live in the same home as your spouse during the divorce process. Do you plan to move somewhere else? Do you want your spouse to move out? Decide what your goals are for your living situation, both before and after the divorce is final. These are important considerations that you should also discuss with your attorney because moving out of the house can affect your chances of achieving your goals regarding your home and child custody.
Depending on the circumstances and how you and your spouse pay expenses, your attorney may advise you to close these joints accounts to prevent your spouse from running up bills in your name or draining the bank accounts.
You shouldn’t decide your financial goals in a divorce without having an accurate picture of your debts and assets. It’s a good idea to write out a simple balance sheet showing all of your debts and assets, including retirement savings and pensions, bank account balances, valuable personal property and real estate, credit card debts, mortgages, auto loans and other debts.
This balance sheet can give you an idea of what you and your spouse will divide during the divorce and will help you budget for the future.
Divorce can take an emotional toll on you and your family. Equally as important as hiring an attorney is surrounding yourself with family and friends who can support you emotionally through this difficult time. It may even be a good idea to speak with a therapist to talk through how you’re feeling. Taking these proactive steps can help you keep a clear head during the divorce process and achieve a better outcome.