If divorce is now part of your everyday vocabulary or thoughts, it's in your best interests to collect your thoughts as well as financial documentation. A high stress time is a hard time to think straight, make good decisions, and know what to do next. We understand. This article and your divorce attorney will help you to do all those things.
If you are considering divorce, use this checklist to get you started along the right path. To be sure you have a complete checklist customized to your state law and your personal situation, consult with a qualified divorce attorney for proper legal advice.
Exhaust all reconciliation efforts.
It's okay to take your time with divorce; there is usually no legal need to file for divorce immediately.*
Meet with a therapist and spend some time thinking through the long term consequences of divorce. Some folks wait a year or so before actually filing.
Bottom line - Wait to file until your anger has subsided, some time has passed, and you've spoken with a trained therapist. It is okay to consult with a divorce lawyer and find out your rights and choices, even if you're not sure you want to file immediately.
*If you are in an abusive (verbal, physical, emotional, etc.) relationship, don't wait. Get out now. Get help now.
Meet With a Therapist
We mentioned meeting with a therapist above, but because it's such an important concept, we'll make it an individual checklist item.
The benefits of working with a therapist include:
- Lower divorce costs (even when adding in therapist fees).
- Less damage to your children.
- Increased peace of mind and less physical symptoms of stress.
- Smoother divorce.
- Smoother transition to the future.
- Better future relationship with your spouse.
- Increased sense of wellbeing.
Bottom line - Never use your children or your lawyer as sounding boards. Work with a trained therapist.
Consult With an Attorney Who Vows to Work Cooperatively
Cooperation is the key to success. If you have an attorney who reminds you of a pit bull or shark, attacking his or her prey, walk away, quickly. That aggressive attitude will pull you down, land you in court, increase your fees, and get you less of what you want.
On the other hand, an attorney who will work with your spouse's attorney to create your own Marital Agreement or guide you through mediation, will be a trusted advisor, keep your fees to a minimum, and get you more of what you want all at a lower emotional and financial cost.
Jot down a list of your questions, thoughts, and concerns. Be sure to include issues such as your children's best interests, whether you should move out of the family home, whether you should take assets out of joint accounts, your rights to your spouse's retirement benefits, life insurance, health insurance, credit cards, the family business, vacation home, covering future expenses, and anything else you think of.
No worries, your attorney won't let you forget to ask something important.
Again, it's perfectly acceptable to consult with a divorce lawyer even if you're not sure divorce is right for you at this time. Go ahead and ask your questions and get the information you need to make good decisions. It's important that you know your legal rights.
Bottom line - Hire a "good guy/girl" attorney, collect information, and ask your questions. You'll reap the benefits.
Immediately start the treasure hunt for credit reports, financial statements, tax returns, loan applications, expense lists, all income and assets, and real estate appraisals. If you think there are hidden assets or your spouse if self-employed or employed in a family business, be sure to let your lawyer know.
Gather evidence of future and separate living expenses for you and your children.
Bottom line - The more information you can gather, the better picture your divorce lawyer will have of what's fair in a property settlement, spousal support, and child support.
Both you and your spouse will have to compromise throughout the divorce and if you have children, into the future as well.
When your emotions are high, everything feels like a big deal. Please say this word to yourself three times (and no less) whenever you feel those emotions go through the roof, "compromise", "compromise", "compromise". Three very deep breaths also help.
When you're in a good place and you no longer feel the adrenalin pulsing through your veins and your breathing is normal, make a list of what's really important to you as well as those you are willing to compromise.
The more you compromise, the more you'll actually receive. And, your divorce costs will be a lot lower as well.
Bottom Line - Identify the most important few things; then, don't sweat the small stuff.