Divorce is a process, often a long, complicated, and drawn-out one. This can be a highly emotional time, full of pressure and tension. You have numerous factors to consider and account for. So preparation is key.
With that in mind, here’s a checklist of things you may want to take care of ahead of time to ensure your divorce goes as smoothly as possible. This list is not all-encompassing by any means, but it’s a good place to start.
1. Be Certain About Your Decision
While this may seem obvious, the decision to divorce is an emotional one, and you shouldn’t make it in haste. This decision will impact you for the rest of your life. Be sure you’ve exhausted all hope of reconciliation before you file for divorce.
Think seriously about the pros and cons, seek out advice, and ask questions to avoid making snap judgments.
Once you serve your spouse with divorce papers, it’s difficult to go back on that decision, even if you change your mind. The court can grant a divorce even if only one spouse wants to end the marriage. So think long and hard before you come to a decision.
Related Reading: What Is In A Divorce Decree?
2. Educate Yourself
Divorce laws vary from state to state, and it’s in your best interest to familiarize yourself with the statutes of where you live.
For example, California is a community property state. This means that, when it comes time for the division of property, the court views all assets acquired during the marriage as being owned jointly by both spouses.
This can have a significant effect on the final judgment. Since many laws differ depending on where you reside, it only benefits you to become acquainted with the specific regulations in your area.
Having an attorney will come in handy here since they’re knowledgeable and up to date on the rules where they practice.
Related Reading: Can Your Spouse Prevent a Divorce?
3. Have A Plan For The Kids
If you have children, it’s important to have a plan to ensure their care during this process. You may want to examine guidelines regarding how things like temporary custody and child support work in your state.
Your kids still need the same level of attention as before, if not more. It’s a good idea to sit down and review your work schedule, your children’s schedule, and your other obligations and create a plan for custody.
If you come up with an arrangement that gives both you and your spouse time with the children, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of most people who file for divorce. Determining mutual goals for custody is one less thing you will have to worry about later on.
Related Reading: How Can I Protect Myself and My Kids During Divorce?
4. Start Saving
Simply put, divorce is expensive.
Even in simple cases, like an uncontested divorce, there are court fees for filing the paperwork. Beyond that, there are costs of going to court; creating, filing, and responding to motions; and temporary orders, like child and spousal support. That’s before you even get to the division of property.
There are also the expenses of setting up a new household to take into account. If you hire an attorney to help with the process, those fees add up quickly.
As you deal with the day-to-day specifics of your divorce, it’s easy to lose sight of the expenses. Start setting money aside early to help offset any surprise charges. Also, make sure to keep close track on what you spend.
Related Reading: Date of Separation in California
5. Gather Financial Records
A big part of the divorce settlement is the division of property. This is where the courts allocate all of the shared possessions accrued over the course of a marriage. It also has a major influence on your financial future and you need to disclose all of your assets and debts.
Below is a list of common financial records you should prepare before filing for divorce:
- Proof of income
- All known accounts with your name:
- Insurance policies.
- Tax records going back at least a few years.
- Catalog of debts:
- Car payments.
- Student loans.
- Credit cards.
- Any significant assets:
- Real estate.
- Other property.
Having all of these documents readily available only benefits you and helps speed the process of divorce along.
Related Reading: Can I Buy a House During a Divorce?
6. Enlist Support Before Divorce
Any drastic life change has an impact on your mental and emotional state. Having a support system in place often helps you through this difficult process. You don’t necessarily need to make your situation public, but to have a shoulder or two to lean on when things get tough definitely helps lessen the blow.
This can be friends or family or even one of the many groups out there designed to help people going through similar trials. If nothing else, it helps to be reminded you’re not in this alone.
Related Reading: How are Assets Divided in Divorce?
7. Have A Plan For After The Divorce
You may be so focused on your divorce that you haven’t given much thought to what comes next. It’s never too early to think about the next step.
After the split, your finances will be drastically different, including:
- New child or spousal support expenses.
- Changes in your living situation.
- Adjusted tax status.
With all of this, you may need to start regulating spending. You should also keep an eye on your credit score if your ex is ordered to pay certain loans or bills.
Getting divorced doesn’t automatically alter any financial agreements you entered into while married. If your former spouse is supposed to pay certain things but doesn’t, it can still negatively affect you.
If there are children involved, depending on the custody arrangement, your schedule will likely look quite different. You may have to find new sources for child care if you’re the primary guardian, or adjust for visitation if you are not.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. You have a great deal to think about as you move forward with the next phase of your life, and it’s never too early to start looking ahead.
Related Reading: Should I File For Bankruptcy Or Divorce First?