Divorce is a decision that can either make or break you. The outcome of your divorce is determined by how well you have prepared for it. Preparation is key to any endeavor and filing for divorce is one of the most important decisions of your life. Imagine spending months, or even years, on a case and losing everything due to insufficient preparation.
There are numerous things that need to be done before you file for divorce. You should not just wake up one day, decide to divorce your spouse, and file for it immediately. If you do that, you will regret your decision later on in life. You will come to realize that you didn’t prepare well enough and you will end up paying for it dearly.
Here are some things that you absolutely must do before filing for divorce:
#1 Be 100% Sure You Want to Get Divorced
The decision to get divorced is a heavily emotional one and should never be made if you’re feeling overly emotional about your marriage.
Have you exhausted all hope of reconciliation? Have you attempted marriage counseling with your spouse?
Before filing for divorce, it will be easier moving forward if you know you’ve tried everything possible to reconcile but it still just isn’t working out. You should also never threaten divorce unless you’re truly ready, and once you’ve served your spouse with divorce papers, it can be difficult to go back on that decision, even if you’ve changed your mind. Courts will grant a divorce even if only one spouse wants to end the marriage but trying to come to as much common ground with your spouse before proceeding with a divorce will be far more beneficial during the divorce process in the long run.
#2 Speak to a Divorce Attorney
Choosing a divorce attorney is a big decision that you’ll have to make as you enter this new phase of your life. You’ll want to work with an attorney that understands your goals and has experience handling the potential pitfalls that lie ahead. Make sure the divorce lawyer you’re speaking with can offer solutions to your questions and is taking the time to hear the full scope of your circumstances.
Divorce proceedings can be smooth, but they can also be a drawn-out and messy situation. If you believe your divorce may be messy (children are in the picture) or deals with a multitude of assets, be sure the attorney you choose has the experience to handle those aspects of your case.
#3 Gather Up Critical Documents
Divorce cases are reliant upon documentation. Bank and phone records, mortgages, and car notes will most likely be relevant in your divorce case. Before filing for divorce gather all the documents you’ll need for your case if it’s at all possible. Print out or make copies of everything, including any shared accounts, before meeting with your attorney. Everyone reacts differently to being served with divorce papers, and some will make it difficult to access these important documents and records after you’ve filed. You can save yourself potential future challenges by getting your hands on everything ahead of time.
#4 Custody Goals for Children
If you’re in a marriage with children, their custody situation is likely at the forefront of your worries when moving forward with a divorce. Except for extreme circumstances, you and your spouse will likely end up sharing custody of the children.
Take some time to sit down and carefully review your work schedule, your children’s schedules, and any other obligations you may have to account for to plan out your desired custody schedule. Coming up with an arrangement that gives you and your spouse time with the children will put you light years ahead of most couples who file for divorce.
#5 Sales and Necessary Purchases
At the beginning of your divorce, the judge may automatically issue an order prohibiting you or your spouse from selling, buying, encumbering, or disposing of any marital property. Courts do this to prevent either of the spouses from draining bank accounts or squandering the marital estate out of spite.
If you’re wanting to sell a piece of property or trade in your vehicle for an upgrade, you’ll be prevented from doing so if you file for divorce first. The best approach is to complete these matters prior to filing for a divorce. Draining your joint bank account before filing for divorce is unadvisable. Not only will it fuel animosity as the divorce moves forward, but it can also come back to severely bite you. You could be ordered to replace the money even if it has already been spent. The court could order sanctions against you and require you to pay fines or pay your spouse’s attorney’s fees. The court may also decide to rectify the situation by adjusting the division of the marital estate.
#6 Decide Your Living Situation
Do you want to reside in the same house with your spouse during an ongoing divorce? Will you plan to move elsewhere? Would you like your spouse to move out instead? Deciding what your goals are for your living situation, both during and after the divorce is critical to the ease or unease of how your divorce may proceed once you file.
The ways in which you behave in the weeks and months leading up to your divorce can affect your chances of winning use of the marital residence during the divorce. Moving in with friends or relatives leading up to your divorce won’t help your chances of being able to go back to and stay in the residence during the divorce. Speaking to a divorce attorney will help you determine how to best position yourself for your desired living situation during your divorce.
#7 Joint Bank Accounts and Credit Cards
Your attorney may advise you to close the accounts or leave them the same depending on how you and your spouse handle your joint accounts and credit cards. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your spouse can run up bills in your name or drain the bank accounts. Sorting out issues like these could not only take up the entire length of the divorce to sort out but may also lead to a costlier divorce in terms of tying up more of your attorney’s time. Our St Petersburg Divorce Attorneys can advise you on the best course of action to take.
#8 You’re NOT Single Yet
Refrain from living like you are single prior to filing for divorce. Even if there is no chance that reconciliation is possible, living separately and having a romantic relationship with another person is still considered adultery. It’s not uncommon for a judge to consider the money you spend on a new partner to be considered dissipation of the marital estate. They could then require you to reimburse your spouse for those expenditures. It typically doesn’t help your case to have started another relationship before your divorce has been filed, or even during the divorce process for that matter. Allowing the divorce process to take place and be finalized before entering a new relationship is generally best for all involved.
#9 Know Your Numbers
How can you decide your financial goals for your divorce without having an accurate picture of your assets and debts? Putting together even a simple balance sheet showing all your assets and debts is a great place to start. In the situation of high-net-worth individuals, it may be necessary to hire an accountant.
Make sure to include property, cars, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and other assets, as well as any mortgages, notes, credit cards, and other debts. This will give you an idea of what you and your spouse will need to split and allow you to envision how you’d like to see things turn out when everything is finished. Understanding your total assets can also help budget for how much you would be willing to or may need to spend on hiring a divorce lawyer to handle your divorce litigation.
#10 Support Networks
Divorce can and usually does take a brutal toll on a family and all parties involved. Just as important as everything else mentioned above is surrounding yourself with loved ones who can help you through this difficult time. Speaking with a therapist or other mental health professional can also be incredibly helpful. Let your friend and family know that you’ll be leaning on them for advice and moral support as you go through this process. Being mentally and emotionally sound will better help you make smart decisions as your divorce progresses to finalization.