Don’t file for a divorce until you have all your ducks in a row.
The decision to end a marriage is a difficult one. However, the odds that the divorce will go as smoothly as possible go up if you take several steps prior to filing for divorce.
Here are 7 things you need to do before you file for divorce.
These steps will ensure that you get the information you need in advance and don’t make a mistake during the divorce process.
Before you file for divorce, attempt at least a few sessions of couples counseling. In some cases, the counseling can get to the root of family malfunctions and resolve them. Second, it demonstrates to the other spouse that there are problems they need to work on, and this alone may get them to admit the issue and start dealing with it. Third, it proves to the court you did try to save the marriage, even if you were planning on leaving. It could also prevent the court from demanding counseling to try to save the marriage after you’ve informed the partner you want to leave.
Hire an Attorney
Hire a good lawyer before you file for divorce because the choices you select on the divorce form and associated paperwork can affect the divorce process itself. You must have a lawyer with you during the division of property just to avoid mistakes like filing a quit claim but failing to realize the bank can legally come after you for the mortgage payments that the resident partner doesn’t make.
Create a List of Assets and Debts
When you’re still living together with full access to the same bank records and accounting software, it is the ideal time to create a list of assets. Generate a list of all of your bank accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts and retirement accounts. Create a list of assets like cars, boats, equity in a startup and jewelry. And don’t forget to list out the debt that each of you or both of you owe. The last thing you want to do is demand the property and become liable for the debt that you cannot pay, too.
Reassess Your Finances
One of the benefits of creating the list of assets is that you can see what is owned and what is owed. You should make a list of the monthly payments for each item that has debts against it. Now compare this to what your current take-home pay is.
You need to be honest about whether or not you can pay the house payment, a car payment, regular bills and anything else that comes up on just your pay. When a couple splits, you lose the economies of scale, and the other partner has to pay their own rent, utilities, and food that used to be a combined expense.
Avoid Vengeance and Vindictiveness
Avoid feeling vindictive or seeking vengeance at any cost. Don’t fight or plan on fighting with an ex-spouse over selling cars because of the emotional attachment, since selling the car to pay off the note and buying a cheaper used car frees up cash for them to pay child support or their own bills. Don’t start poisoning the kids against the other parent, since this could affect your visitation or even custody of the children.
We’ve already addressed creating a list of financial liabilities and assets. What many neglect to do is document everything else. When you’re still living together is the easiest time to collect the evidence of infidelity like voicemails, text message logs and printed out emails. Keep a journal of events if you haven’t already to document weekend visits to an extramarital lover or emotional abuse.
Determine Your Custody Goals
Child custody is often seen as an all or nothing arrangement, but it shouldn’t be. For example, before you agree to 50-50 custody, are you going to be able to provide ideal supervision for the children when they are with you? Can you arrange to leave right after school lets out or the daycare closes instead of relying on someone else to watch the kids? Can you handle a court schedule that says take the kids to Dad’s every Wednesday night in addition to every other weekend?
If you’re going for a standard custody arrangement, start working on finding ways to alter to your work schedule so that you can support it or generate a different custody agreement that will provide equal time for the other partner. If you get custody of the child on the weekends and your job says you have to travel, you’ll look like a neglectful parent to the child and the court.
All these steps are essential if you want the divorce proceedings to go as smoothly as possible and if you want a favorable outcome. Don’t hesitate to seek counseling before and during the proceedings and make sure that you keep your emotions leveled for yours and your family’s sake.