For most, divorce by its very nature is not a pleasant experience. Involve divorce attorneys and Family Court Judges, unprepared litigants and the situation becomes much more stressful.
In most cases a person is so emotionally worn down by the time they decide to divorce they’ve not had the wherewithal to consider what the financial and legal process of divorce entails.
Welcome to the wonderful world of divorce and its cast of supporting characters…lawyers, judges, interrogatories, continuances, custody disputes and high expectations. Most parties to divorce have never been involved in legal litigation, used an attorney or been inside a courtroom. For them divorce is their first sobering involvement with the world of legal litigation.
Divorce is both an end to marriage and the beginning of an education in law.
If you aren’t emotionally and financially prepared to maneuver the choppy waters of the legal divorce process, you are not ready to divorce.
Can you answer the following questions?
- How is custody of children decided in your state?
- How is child support determined under your state’s divorce laws?
- How does the court divide marital property?
- Can you move to a new location after divorce?
- What do you need to know before hiring a divorce attorney?
- Who has to move out of the marital home?
- What is divorce mediation?
- Where will you find extra income after your divorce?
If you are confused by the above questions you are not ready to enter the legal process of divorce. You’ve got some learning to do! And until you’ve done your homework, believe me you don’t want to find yourself tangled up in the legal process of divorce.
There are three things you should do before filing for a divorce. Once you’ve come to terms with the emotional ending of your marriage and gotten yourself financially prepared you will need to do the following:
Understand Divorce Law:
Most will tell you that your legal education begins with a divorce attorney. I strongly disagree! No one is prepared to hire a divorce attorney until they have an understanding of their state’s divorce laws which will give them a better understanding of what they should and should not expect from a divorce attorney.
Divorce in the United States is governed by laws that are particular to each state. State divorce laws deal with all aspects of the divorce process, from residency requirements, to child custody, to the division of marital property. I have compiled a complete list of divorce laws by state here. Check them out and get an idea of how your state handles different aspects of the divorce process.
There are documents a divorce attorney will need to get your divorce underway. Gathering these documents and having them ready before you hire an attorney can help keep those “wheels” spinning and speed up the process.
This is not fun but you will be glad you took the time to compile these documents at the beginning. You will need copies of tax returns for the last three years. If you filed separately you will need copies of your tax returns and your spouse’s tax returns. Make copies of all bank accounts, joint accounts and individual accounts for the last year.
Credit card statements for accounts held jointly and separately should be copied and provided to an attorney. You will also need at least three paystubs or proof of monthly income for yourself and your spouse, a list of all monthly expenses, a list of all marital assets and debts and a brief description of how parenting duties are handled between the two of you. Once you’ve put together these documents you are ready to hire a divorce attorney.
Hire a Divorce Attorney:
This is the person who will promote your best interest during the divorce process. You won’t find a divorce attorney who has as much invested in your divorce as you do BUT with a little research you can find one who is invested enough in his/her legal reputation to make sure that you are legally protected.
More from DivorcedMoms
- You Want Out, He Doesn’t: 5 Ways To Respect His Pain
- If I Had Done These Things Before Marrying, I Would Be Divorcing Now
- Divorce Checklist: 10 Things You Must Do Before Filing For Divorce
- Thinking About Divorce? Find Your State’s Divorce Resources