Being prepared for the worst is always better than being caught off guard. If you know what you are in for then you can prepare and hopefully speed up the process and start your new life. That is the ultimate goal of divorce-to find that happiness again and enjoy the life that was given to us.
Being bitter and hoping to make your Ex pay for whatever they did is only going to make the process more of a battle and go on and on. No one benefits from this way of thinking and most of all if there are children involved they will be the ones that suffer the most.
1. It will be unpleasant. Regardless of what the other person has promised, typically going through divorce will bring out anger and bitterness. I was promised a certain amount of money and told how much he loves me and if we were to ever part ways, we would always be friends. This most likely will never be the case in a divorce as my divorce and custody trials have been anything but friendly and nice. When he realized it was over he told me he would “crucify” me in court.
2. Attorney: Find a divorce attorney you like and will present you in the way you want. There are attorneys that will provide free consultations. Go to at least three before deciding on the one you want. You have to feel comfortable and trust them as they will be spending a lot of time with you and will be representing you. It is also best to go with a partner of the firm if possible. Partners are usually taken more seriously than associates.
3. Plan: Any amount of planning you are able to do before actually filing for the divorce will help tremendously. Money - know how much it will cost to move out in case you are not able to stay in the marital home. You will need to open your own bank account as soon as possible to separate from the community bank account. Don't drain the community bank account. Try to not take more than half as this will look as though you are not trying to take the other person’s money and be vindictive.
4. Document EVERYTHING in the residence. Take pictures or video of every room in the house. Take pictures of cars, outside of the house and patio area. Everything will have to be accounted for and it is best to have physical documentation for when you have to list every item that was ever bought while you were married. If you do not have proof, it can always be denied that it existed by your Ex.
5. Important Papers: Make copies of absolutely every important paper that has your name or your child’s name on it. This includes: Birth certificates, passports, marriage license, deeds, car titles and registrations, social security documents, tax returns, credit card statements, bank statements, car insurance and health insurance information, Trusts, retirement profiles. You will have to provide most of this information to the court, it is easier if you already have the original or a copy and you don’t have to go to the expense of asking for the information through the attorneys - it will save you money.
6. Details After the Date of Separation: Once the divorce request has been submitted to the court, this date will be your date of separation. This is the day you were legally separated and the community property stops for some items. You still need to keep detailed records as you will be scrutinized about what you buy, where you live and what you are doing. I have kept a daily journal. This keeps track of what I do on a day-to-day basis in case accusations are made about my lifestyle.
7. Co-Parenting Plan: Prepare a co-parenting plan you would like implemented. If you can submit a well thought out plan for the children without a courtroom battle, this is better for everyone involved. Even if the Ex does not agree to it, if you show the court you are proactive and are not trying to alienate the children from the other parent, the judge will look at this as a positive (in most cases).
8. Therapy: Find some sort of counseling while going through this life changing event. You will need someone to talk to that is not a family member or a friend. You need someone that can help you understand what you are feeling and how to best deal with those feelings and help you move on with starting a new life for yourself. Find a therapist for your children, they too will need someone to talk to.
Therapy will help with the flood of emotions that will be swimming through your head. And when you are in court, you need to not let any of that show. You must not interact with your Ex and most of all do not show any feelings when your Ex’s attorney is making horrible accusations against you. The judge is watching your every move and if you act out in any way, it will reflect in a negative way. I bring a notebook with me and if I am anxious or angry with the dialogue that is happening between the attorneys, I write in the notebook. I may just write one word over and over, but I try my best to appear calm and collected at all times.
9. Debt: Accept the fact that you will go into debt during this process. Don’t let this stress you out. I decided my happiness and sanity was much more valuable than being financially secure and miserable. Create a budget and stick to it. Brainstorm how you can create or obtain the money that is needed to complete this process. I took a loan out against my retirement, my parents help me out as much as they can and I find other creative means to make extra cash. It was when I stopped crying every month when the bills would arrive and stopped stressing about where the money would come from that miracles would start appearing. i would receive a credit card with the amount I needed to pay something or someone would send me a gift card for food. I have been in the process for two years - still surviving!
10. Make a timeline: This will help you keep everything in perspective. You need to know that not all divorces are quick and easy. In fact, I was told that the average length of the divorce process is 18 months to two years. If you add custody issues into the mix, it can be much longer. My timeline is 5 years, my goal is to be completely divorced and “un-tied” from my Ex in 5 years. This is all determined by how much fighting ensues during the process, if both parties want to just part ways than it will be smooth sailing. If one wants to fight, then legally they can drag the divorce out for a very long time.