Preparing for Divorce
You've found yourself unhappy in your marriage and have exhausted all of your resources for "fixing," it, now what? Run through this list before you schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney so that you can get the most out of your consultation.
Create a snapshot of your finances.What are the finances in your marriage? Gather together the documents your attorney is going to want to see, including but not limited to the following:
1. Recent tax returns;
2. Bank account statements (joint and personal);
3. Mortgage statement;
4. Heloc statement;
5. Credit card statements (joint and personal);
6. A list of your monthly expenses;
7. Recent paystubs;
8. Recent statements for any other debt;
9. Recent statements for any retirement accounts; and
10. Recent statements regarding any pension plans.
Be smart!If you're in a hostile or volatile relationship, follow these steps with caution. If there is no way for you to gather certain financial documents without your spouse realizing what is going on and putting you in danger or at risk of them knowing you're considering a divorce before you're ready for them to know, don't! Perhaps you can write down the balances even if you're unable to obtain a copy of the most recent statements. However, if you're not, that is okay! You should still schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the process of divorce.
Ignore the legal advice you recieve from non-attorneys.When friends and/or family find out that you're going through the divorce process (or thinking about it), you are going to get a wave of unsolicited advice. It is very important to remember that every divorce is different. The likelihood that you're going to receive "war-stories," or advice from someone who's divorce is exactly like yours is dismal. The differentiating factors in every divorce include, but are not limited to: length of marriage, age of children, occupation of each spouse, income of each spouse, personal needs of the children (health/developmental), financial assets, and debt.
Practice selfcare.Divorce is very easily one of the most difficult challenges you will face in your adult life. I often advise my clients to seek out a therapist to discuss not only whether divorce is right for them, but also to help them process the emotions that are going to come up during the divorce process.
Write down any questions, concerns, or goals.Take some time to think about all of the questions and concerns you have about filing for divorce. No question is, "stupid," divorce is a complicated legal process and its okay that you don't understand all of the nuances. Writing down all of these questions and concerns prior to your consultation will help you not to forget to address them with the attorney, but they will also help your attorney to explain the process to you. It will also be helpful for your attorney to know what your goal(s) are for your divorce, i.e. keeping the marital home.
Be smart with social media.Whenever you tweet something on twitter, post something to snapchat or instagram, or share or comment on something on Facebook, its out there for the world (or your friends list/followers) to see. Don't share something with the world that you may later regret, i.e. disparaging comments about your spouse that could come up during the divorce process. It is often times advisable to shut down your social media accounts during the divorce process, because if they do not exist they are less likely to haunt you.
What about your personal items?Start making a list of the personal items you want to keep following the divorce. If you're going to be moving out of the marital home during the divorce process, take time to take photos of each room so that you can show (and remember) down the line what personal items were in your home.
Be smart with communication.In contentious divorces where parties cannot speak respectfully to each other, I often advise that any necessary communication (regarding children) be done in writing. Whether this means text messages or emails, it is often important for the parties to have a record of the communication between them. This means that if you say something unacceptable or concerning, it may come up in your divorce to haunt you.
Find an attorney that you feel comfortable with!All attorneys are not created equally! While you could meet with 3 outstanding divorce attorneys, all 3 may not be the right attorney for you! You want to make sure that you feel comfortable with your attorney, because this is going to be an emotional process. Hire the attorney that makes you feel like they have your best interest in mind, that you have confidence in representing you, and that you feel comfortable having very uncomfortable conversations with.