Divorce can be a very painful and scary time in your life, but following these steps will keep the pain to a minimum and help smooth out the entire process.
Get Started Immediately
It’s important that you take steps right away to protect yourself. If children are involved, it’s even more important. Here are the steps you should take right now to help make sure things work out for you the best way possible.
Step 1: Keep Records and Document Your Property
Once the two of you separate, it may be difficult to put together a full picture of your property. One quick and easy way to document your personal property is to make a video. Use a smartphone to video everything you own by just walking around the house, opening drawers, describing things as you go. Walk around outside and capture outdoor items, too.
Make a copy of all the financial records you can get your hands on, going back at least a year: bank statements, bills, credit card statements, car titles.
Make a list of accounts and investments and their balances.
Step 2: Look at Your Finances
Consider the fact that your financial situation is going to be a bit rougher for a while. The two of you have maintained a single household on your combined income. Soon, it will have to maintain two separate households.
Consider what your sources of income will be and what your new expenses will look like. Come up with a tentative monthly budget. If your spouse is the primary breadwinner, and the separation is going to be less than friendly, plan for how you will get along for a few months without that income. The court will eventually order your spouse to pay support, but it might take a while.
Step 3: Plan Your Separation
Under most circumstances, you will be required to live completely separate from each other for either 6 months or a full year to finalize a divorce. You will have to actually live under separate roofs. One of you will have to move out. Start making plans for how that will happen. Who will leave? Where will they go? What will it take to move things?
Step 4: Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal can help you in two very different ways: it can help you legally and also emotionally. Legally, your journal can be a useful reference and record of things that have happened in your case which you want to discuss with your lawyer or testify to in court. Emotionally, it can help you work through the pain and grief you are going through, helping you separate the emotional clouds from the level-headed “business decisions” you will have to make.
Step 5: Call an Attorney
It’s best to get an attorney involved as quickly as possible. The longer you wait to talk to an attorney, the less effective they can be in protecting your rights and interests, since, for some things, it might be too late.
Talk to an attorney right away. It usually doesn’t cost much and can save you so much in the long run. If you are worried about your spouse finding out you are speaking to an attorney, there are ways we can help you keep it confidential.