Preparation is the key to get ready for everything in life, and so it is also with divorce. So many times one of the first things we hear from potential clients is "I have no idea where to start". This list is the beginning of an answer to that question.
Read as much as you can.
Read articles and books on divorce and the divorce process. Knowledge about the law and courts can make what's coming a little less frightening. Don't listen to war stories ("my friend's husband ...."), they are rarely positive and usually wrong.
Gather information on your finances and assets.
Gather all information on your property, income, assets & liabilities. Run a credit report and make copies of your account statements and tax returns. Find the values for your cars and house. Nothing is too trivial at this stage. Copy everything! Make a video inventory of the house. Things and financial records tend to vanish. Note: If you fear your spouse may drain accounts upon realizing a divorce is going to happen you have to consider acting to protect your assets. Joint credit cards frequently must be considered as well. Note: If you fear your spouse may drain accounts upon realizing a divorce is going to happen, you have to consider acting to protect your assets. Joint credit cards must be frequently checked and considered as well.
Assess your personal items.
Assess what personal items you do not want to see disappear from your life (pictures, family heirlooms, etc.). If there are things that matter to you, get them gone. If their absence is noticed, then the War of the Roses begins, so be discreet. Guard "special" jewelry (engagement ring, etc.) carefully. Do not strip the house.
Change access to accounts.
Change all your passwords (email, bank account, pension, etc). Do not use new ones that are easy to guess. Scrub that hard drive and don't use it again. Clean out your cell phone. Remember, cell phone bills and EZ-Pass records tell a story. If it's not a story you want told, then change the way you travel and communicate. A post office box is not a bad idea to protect the privacy of your mail.
Behave civilly. Family (or criminal) Court Orders of Protection can be game changers. They are liberally granted and their issuance is possibly more impactful on a divorce proceeding than any other single event.
Find a support person. Rarely is clear thinking (or even clear hearing) always present. Your best friend or a close relative may serve as a much needed aide at lawyer meetings and after court appearances.
Train for the long haul.
Train for a marathon, not a sprint. Divorce is not a process that ends quickly. Although not always the case, frequently the best outcome is realized by whomever holds on longest.
Take notes at home. From the first moment the concept of divorce is contemplated write down everything. Date, time, event, witnesses. Memory fades faster than ink. Oh, yeah, hide the book!
Pick the right lawyer.
Pick the best lawyer for you. Lawyers are a lot like shoes; those that fit your friend will not necessarily fit you. Retain a lawyer with whom you are comfortable and who is likely to work effectively in a negotiation with your spouse.
Know what you want.
Know what you want. Nothing guarantees a long, drawn out divorce better than the absence of a clear, unchanging set of goals. You need both a wish list and a bottom line. This may seem simplistic, but it is the single most important item on this list!