If you’re convinced that your marriage is irretrievably broken and you’re headed for divorce, here are ten steps to take.
Schedule a consultation with our divorce attorney. When considering a divorce, it is important that you become informed about your legal rights and responsibilities so that you can plan properly for your divorce. We offer a low cost confidential divorce consultation to provide you with legal information and help you develop a legal strategy tailored to your particular situation to save you time, money, and stress. During your divorce consultation, our divorce attorney will:
Review your intake form and other relevant documents to gain a thorough understanding of your particular situation;
Talk with you to learn more about your situation, your concerns, and your goals;
Share with you our thoughts regarding the strengths and weaknesses of your position;
Provide you with information relating to alimony, spousal support, distribution of marital assets, distribution of marital debt, child custody, visitation, and child support;
Collaborate with you to set realistic goals and develop a legal strategy tailored to your unique situation and goals;
Provide you with an estimated cost of your divorce services; and
Discuss your payment options.
Our consultations can be completed in person in our office, via phone, or via video conference. You may choose the method that is most convenient for you.
2. Make copies of important documents. It is important that you thoroughly go through household files and make copies of everything you can find, including, but not limited to, tax returns, bank statements, check registers, investment statements, retirement account statements, employee benefits handbooks, life insurance policies, mortgage documents, financial statements, credit card statements, wills, Social Security statements, automobile titles, etc. If your spouse is self-employed, it is important to gather as much information as possible about the finances of the business. You should make copies of any financial data stored on your home computer.
3. Take an inventory of the household and family possessions. It is very important that you are aware of all marital assets when it comes time to distribute the marital property. To ensure that you have an accurate list of all of the marital assets, you should take time stamped pictures of all the major items in your house, such as, furniture, artwork, jewelry, appliances, automobiles, etc. You should also write a list of your marital assets and notate their fair market values. Do not forget to check the storage areas of your home and your safe deposit boxes for valuables.
4. Know the household budget and expenses. If it is possible, you should go through your bank statements for the past year and write down each utility, mortgage, and other household expense for each month. You should also keep track of the cash you spend on a daily basis so that you’ll be able to ascertain your monthly cash expenditures as well.
5. Determine how to manage the family debt. If it is possible, you should determine the family debt and come up with a plan for you and your spouse to pay it down before the divorce, as the allocation of marital debt among divorcing spouses is one of the most difficult items to negotiate. When you make a list of you and your spouse’s debts, you should determine whether any of the debt was incurred by one spouse or the other prior to the date of marriage. Typically, debt that was incurred by one party prior to the marriage is considered “non-marital debt” and belongs to the spouse who incurred it.
6. Find out exactly how much your spouse earns. If your spouse earns a regular salary, it is easy to look at a pay stub; if your spouse is self-employed, owns a business, or receives any portion of income in cash, do your best to keep track of the money flowing in for several months.
7. Make a realistic appraisal of your earning potential. If you have been out of the workforce for a while, it is very important that you make a realistic appraisal of your earning potential. When making an appraisal of your earning potential, you can look at the salary for jobs whose qualifications you meet and consider your past education and experience. If after making an appraisal of your current employability you believe you will not be able to support yourself and your children in a manner that you wish, you may want to consider furthering your education prior to divorce.
8. Examine your credit history. If you do not have credit cards in your own name, apply for them now, use them, and establish your own credit history. If you have a poor credit history, try to pay creditors now and improve your own credit rating prior to divorce. This will increase your ability to qualify for purchasing items of your own after the divorce.
9. Build a "nest egg" of your own. If you are contemplating divorce, you should always have access to money of your own. If your spouse moves out and stops paying bills, you will need to pay them until temporary support orders can be entered. If you are the one who is going to file for divorce, you’ll need money for attorney fees, court costs, and expenses. Start saving now and plan to initiate divorce proceedings when you have built up a nest egg of your own.
10. Make your children your number one priority. It is important that you keep your children’s routines as normal as possible during the divorce process. If you and your spouse cannot be together with the children without arguing, you should consider creating a schedule of separate times for each of you to be with the children. Stay involved (or become involved) in your children’s school, sports, and social activities. Although you may be frustrated with your spouse, it is important that you do not talk negatively about your spouse in the presence of your children.