Steps to Take Before Filing for Divorce
The possibility of divorce is overwhelming, but advance preparation can help make this life-altering process much more manageable. Of course your first step is to consult an attorney, because everything you say and do has repercussions on your divorce! In the meantime, here are some additional tips and suggestions of what steps to take before filing that will help you during this transition.
- Conduct yourself with integrity. You may not be the only one planning this divorce, so everything you say or do becomes future evidence. Do not send angry texts, voice mails, phone calls, etc., and document any that you receive. During a divorce, your actions will be analyzed, so this is the time to be on your best behavior.
- Document your spouse’s actions. While you are conducting yourself with integrity, you will want to document the times when your spouse does not. If you receive an angry text or email, save and print it, and keep it in a safe place. If you receive an angry voice mail, save it. If your spouse misses the kids’ bed time every night to drink at the bar with friends, document the occasions.
- If you have children, ensure they are well-cared for, and say only positive things to them about your spouse. This is a great time to become more involved with your kids – attend their sporting events, volunteer in their classrooms, and get to know them better through one-on-one activities. Your children probably already know your marriage is in trouble, so they need the security that your presence will provide. In addition, building or maintaining a great relationship before the divorce will help to provide comfort and stability after the divorce.
- Stay home. If it is safe for you to remain in your home with your spouse, stay there for as long as possible. Your attorney will discuss your options for housing in greater detail, but leaving the home can impact the eventual award of support, child custody, property, and more.
- Determine what you own. Begin to collect and copy bank statements, investment statements, and other assets so you have proof of what you have and where it is kept. In addition, make lists showing what your home and vehicles are worth, and what outstanding balances exist on those loans. Make lists and take photographs of other things of value – jewelry, artwork, furniture, and anything else of value. Sometimes valuable property disappears once divorce proceedings begin.
- Determine what you owe. While you are compiling the documents showing your assets, locate and copy credit card statements, student loans, and any other debt you have accrued.
- Prepare your budget. You know what you earn, and it is helpful to know what your spouse earns as well. If you or your spouse is moving out, you will both have to pay housing expenses, utilities, and more. You may also have to share child care expenses, so knowing what your monthly income and expenses will be is helpful information to present when you meet with your attorney.
- Insure yourself. If you and/or your children are currently covered under your spouse’s insurance policy, you will need to consider what options you have, and factor that into your budget as well.
- Separate your money. If you have joint accounts, and you fear your spouse may empty them, ask your attorney if it is advisable to open a separate account and move money into it, keeping accurate records. In addition, if you have joint credit cards, you will want to close them if possible, to prevent your spouse making purchases you may be responsible for. In addition, if you do not have much individual credit, you should start to build credit in only your name, to help you with housing and future loans you may need to obtain on your own.
- Invest in yourself. Your upcoming divorce is going to be stressful, and you taking care of your mental and physical health will serve you during the coming months. Reconnect with friends and family, so they can provide the emotional support you may need.
- Focus on the end result. The details associated with divorce are cumbersome, but if you stay organized, maintain your integrity, and follow your attorney’s advice, you will be in a much better position to achieve the best possible outcome.
As we mentioned above, working with an attorney as early as possible during the divorce process is crucial. If you are considering a divorce, contact our office to discuss your options, and obtain our guidance during this period of change.