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How to start a divorce

What you need to know about starting the divorce process

If you need to learn how to start a divorce, you're likely contemplating your options. While it might be painful to end your marriage, educating yourself on the process can provide the motivation you need to make this important decision.

What should you think about before you file for divorce?

When you're contemplating divorce, you must consider how you feel about your decision, how your spouse might react, and what you hope happens after you set the wheels in motion. How you prepare will largely depend on your relationship with your spouse.

Family law attorney, Angela McIlveen, suggests getting your finances in order. She notes, "You need to know as much as possible about how much your spouse makes and when he/she is paid. If you and your spouse own a business, make copies of all the account information you can find."

You'll have to make decisions about child custody, property division, the marital home, and other issues, so think about what you would like to get out of the arrangement.

Talk to an attorney

When you know you want a divorce, meet with a family law attorney to discuss your options. According to Florida divorce lawyer Tami Augen, it's advisable to at least consult a lawyer so you know your options. She suggests researching potential attorneys on Avvo and through your state bar association. You can also ask friends and relatives for referrals too.

Take financial documents, prenuptial agreements, and any legal paperwork you have with you to your consultation. Prepare a list of questions in advance.

Knowing how to start a divorce will prepare you both physically and mentally. You'll want to know how to protect your rights and whether you should make any financial or legal changes first. As you prepare to meet with your attorney, gather title and deed paperwork to any property you own jointly with your spouse. Make copies of those documents so you don't lose them.

How to tell your spouse

Anticipating your spouse's reaction will help you decide when to bring up divorce. If you believe that you can split up amicably, you might broach the subject before you consult an attorney or file for divorce. Some people even start the process together, by filing a joint petition and creating mutually agreed on separation agreement. This is known as an uncontested divorce

However, if you believe your spouse might become violent or use underhanded tactics, consider meeting with your attorney and filing the paperwork before you ever mention it. Instead of confronting your spouse directly, have the papers served so you don't have to engage.

Your rights after starting the divorce

Divorces can raise many emotions that might lead you to make a mistake. Don't step outside your rights or violate your spouse's rights during this time.

For instance, you can't lock your spouse out of the marital home or move to another state with the kids. Similarly, you're not allowed to shield money from your spouse to increase the amount of money you keep after the divorce.

If you don't feel safe or if you're worried that a particular issue will become a problem, your attorney can petition the judge in your case to issue a temporary order. However, make sure you follow the law.

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