Filing for divorce is a big decision, to say the least. There are several issues that may need to be resolved before you can officially end your marriage, including the division of your marital assets, spousal support, child custody, and whether you will pay or receive your child support.
With so much on the line, it’s extremely important that you fully evaluate your options and goals before you file for divorce.
Here Are 8 Things You Need To Do Before You File for Divorce
1. Have Certainty
It’s critical that you are sure that you want to get a divorce before you file for one. Filing for divorce can irrevocably change your relationship and may start a cascade of events from which there is no coming back. You should never file for divorce as a bluff or in response to a particularly bad fight.
While there are certainly cases in which it’s justifiable to file for divorce without letting your spouse know, in most cases, it’s a good idea to discuss the matter before you file any paperwork with the court.
2. Gather Important Documentation
As soon as divorce is even a consideration for the future, you should take the time to gather important documentation and information. This way, you will have everything organized when the time comes to file for divorce, and you will not have to worry about your spouse attempting to conceal critical information – such as financial accounts – from you. Some documentation you should organize in a file includes:
- Social security numbers for you, your spouse, and your children
- Insurance policies
- Account numbers for all bank, investment, and retirement accounts
- Deeds to real property
- Titles to vehicles
- Appraisals of valuables, including art, musical instruments, or jewelry
- An inventory of your personal property
- Usernames and passwords for all online accounts
With all of this information upfront, your lawyer will have the full picture of your situation, and you will not need to delay your divorce while you search for documentation. Keep in mind that if you plan to move out, you should be sure to get these documents before you actually leave – many divorcing spouses who leave the marital home find it very difficult to get back in once they are out.
3. Have A Plan for Custody
If you and your spouse have children, and one of you is planning on moving out, it’s a good idea to discuss how you want to handle child custody while your divorce is pending. You can always hammer out a final custody order at a later date or have the court decide the issue for you, and it’s a good idea for your children’s sake to figure out how you will handle parenting time and decisions until your divorce is finalized.
If you’re having trouble coming to an agreement with your spouse, keep in mind that a judge can impose a temporary custody order during this period.
4. Have A Support Network
Divorce can take a toll on your finances, but it is also a highly emotional time. No matter who is seeking the divorce, ending a marriage and breaking up your family can be a draining task. You should avoid taking out your emotions on your children, but it is important to have a separate emotional support network.
Dedicated friends or family members can lend an ear when needed, and they can also help with your kids or other tasks that can be difficult to complete on your own.
5. Have A Clear Understanding of How Your Actions Could Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce
The period between filing for divorce and the date your divorce is final can be a complicated one. Many people are anxious to get on with the next chapter in their lives and do things that may be out of character or start dating immediately. It’s important to understand that the things you do while your divorce is pending may have an effect on the outcome of issues like child custody, the division of marital assets, or spousal support (maintenance).
For this reason, you should refrain from engaging in any activities that could call into question your judgment or emotional stability. In addition, since you are still married in the eyes of the law, it’s a good idea to refrain from dating or starting a new relationship while your divorce is pending.
6. Have A Financial Plan
There is no doubt that divorce can affect your financial situation. For many people, losing the financial support of a spouse can be difficult, and there are ways to plan ahead to ensure you are in the best financial position possible post-marriage. Some aspects of a strong financial divorce plan include:
- Do not accrue any unnecessary debt before or during a divorce
- Watch any joint accounts for over-spending on your spouse’s part
- Stick to a strict budget and minimize your spending
- Determine how much income you will need to cover your bills and expenses on your own
7. Have A Place to Live
Many people wonder whether they should move out prior to filing for divorce. Sometimes, moving out can make it more difficult to retain any ownership in the family home after the divorce, so you might consider staying until the divorce is final. However, if the situation at home is untenable or unsafe, you should secure a place to live that is affordable and appropriate for your children to visit.
8. Hire An Experienced Divorce Attorney
Finally, if you are considering filing for divorce, it’s in your best interest to at least consult with a family lawyer in your jurisdiction. Divorce is a complicated legal matter that can affect the most important aspects of your life, including your finances, your ability to spend time with your children and make important decisions about their lives, and whether you can stay in your current home.
Consequently, it’s highly advisable that you consult with an attorney before you decide to take any steps that can affect your legal rights.