So, you think you’re ready to take the big leap and file for divorce? If you’ve considered all your options, thought through every aspect of your decision and firmly believe it’s time, there are some steps to take to get yourself ready for this next stage of life.
Divorces, just like marriages, come in all sizes and difficulty levels. Some can be hospitable, friendly, and simple. Others are massive, cumbersome, time-consuming affairs, especially when custody is contested and serious financial assets are involved. Most divorces fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
No matter the shape of your divorce, we want to give you a short list of key things to consider and tackle as you prepare for a split. With these tips, you’ll gain confidence about the path ahead. Finally, you will build the foundation you need for a smoother divorce process, and ready yourself for everything that comes after.
It’s Just that Time
Divorce happens for several reasons: infidelity, incompatibility, money issues, irreconcilable differences, parenting style differences, emotional and psychological trauma, family struggles, inattentiveness, and many more.
It is wise to consider your reasons for wanting a divorce. Why do you feel this way? How long have you been feeling these emotions and contemplating other options? Have you tried counseling? Will you be happier, healthier if you divorce? How will this affect your children? What will this look like financially? What do you really want…divorce or to stay together and make work on things? There are several more questions, but these are some primary ones that everyone should ask themselves.
If you’ve already moved through these examinations and find yourself ready to go ahead with the divorce, you want to move forward with clarity and wisdom, avoiding rash decisions, bad habits, and choices that will come back to haunt you later. There are some simple ways to protect and prepare yourself for life during and after divorce. Let’s look at them now.
1. Learn the Process
This may seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people go into divorce without doing their research. It’s time to log in to your state’s divorce informational website(s) and go over any specific state requirements, deadlines, and paperwork, along with accessing any additional helpful resources they have available.
Another great idea is to get a few books on divorce. Look for highly rated titles with strong reviews that are known for their breadth of information. You can learn a lot from individuals who’ve already walked through divorce, from professionals like counselors, mediators, and attorneys, and from those who have studied divorce from several angles.
Find a great attorney and open a dialogue with them about your divorce. Discuss things like state requirements and laws about divorce, reasons for divorce, sole custody and split custody, divorce costs, documents of divorce, divorce complaints, divorce petitions and divorce requests, fault-based divorce, and issues of domestic violence or child abuse, (any kind of violence or child abuse should also be dealt with through law enforcement so that you and your family remain safe and keep accurate records of occurrences).
Some other topics you can discuss include:
- Divorce proceedings and divorce settlements
- Parental rights
- Primary residence
- Divorce papers
- Contested divorces and uncontested divorces
- Personal finances, debt and division of assets
- Common-law divorce (if it applies)
- Divorce records and time frames
- Spousal support and child support arrangements, dependent spouse requirements, and child custody agreements
- Types of divorce
- Children’s living arrangements
- Court hearings
- Disagreements with your spouse about divorce specifics and all other relevant matters.
2. Organize Your Finances
One of the areas of life that divorce often affects the most is in your finances and financial future. Go over every detail of your finances. You can also work with your accountant and financial advisor to do this even more thoroughly.
Get a clear picture of and document all debts like outstanding consumer loans and college debt, all your assets like your home, cars, additional property and other investments, bank accounts, business status and financial position, and all other assets.
If the conversation about divorce has already begun, work together to separate bank accounts according to what you both agree upon. Don’t make any large purchases or open any loans during this time. This is generally forbidden once the divorce begins and any last-minute attempts to spend your partner’s money or use their credit to obtain assets or funds may be reversed or penalized.
If you think divorce is coming down the road, try putting away extra money in savings (your own money, not your spouse’s), so you’ll have a buffer when change comes. If you already have larger purchases or financial transactions in process, try to finish these before you begin your divorce so your finances will be more streamlined.
3. Get the Help You Need
Divorce is a big deal, and it carries emotional and personal consequences for you and your family. Some effects of divorce may last for months or even years. It’s important to surround yourself with loving, caring, supportive friends and family, along with the best professionals you can find.
Talk with your friends about what you need. Ask them to be present, supportive, and engaged, but also to remain objective and not let you get away with self-delusion or unhealthy habits. Stay open with your family according to your personal limits. Set proper boundaries with people but remain vulnerable with those individuals who are truly trustworthy. Don’t shut your family and friends out. You’ll only increase depression, stress, worry, and loneliness. Lean on those you love. They want to help you and be present during this difficult time.
The next part of getting the help you need is to hire the right professionals. Start by partnering with a trusted divorce attorney, one who is fully engaged, detailed, present, a great listener, disciplined, and has a great track record. They hold invaluable wisdom about divorce and how it impacts families that will go a long way for you and your kids.
Consider getting a counselor for yourself and your children or increasing your sessions if you’re already receiving their services. Counselors can help you work through deep emotions, family strain and disagreements, and relational conflict. They can also give you tips for navigating relationships and communication better, parenting advice, adjusting to a new family unit, and how to prepare for the significant changes that divorce brings.
Lastly, think about using a mediator to work with you and your spouse if you’re on good terms and both believe you can come to a mutual agreement. That way, discussions about divorce, child custody, child care, equitable time, alimony, other types of assistance, each parent’s requests, the possibility of an uncontested divorce hearing, equitable divorce agreements, and other matters go more smoothly, remain respectful, and stay focused on the things that matter.
4. Behave Yourself
It sounds like something your vice principal used to say, right? In this case, we aren’t chastising you, but encouraging you to simply keep your behavior, words, and choices mature, adult, respectful, and up front.
You may feel like lashing out or retaliating for things your spouse has done to you. You may want to talk about them behind their back, or do things that hurt them emotionally, professionally and financially. You may want to do things that limit their time with the kids or damage their relationship with the children. All these things are not only wrong and deeply hurtful to your spouse, they will only come back to bite you later on, damage your reputation and impact your divorce judgment.
It’s easy to take notes and record things these days. Your outrageous statements, fights, and threats can be used against you later. Attempts to damage their relationship with the kids can hurt your custody arrangements. Talking about them behind their back will probably get back to them and can be used during your trial. Attempts to hurt them financially will only hurt you when the courts see what you’ve done and order you to rectify the situation.
Conduct yourself like an adult. Stay level-headed. Show the kind of respect you would want to receive. Listen well. Don’t leap to judgment or melodrama and encourage your children to remain fully engaged with your spouse.
5. Plan for Your Future
While it’s difficult, divorce also offers you an incredible opportunity for change, growth, and hope. It’s a great time to get healthy, to eat better, exercise, set a better schedule, and implement habits that improve your wellbeing.
It’s time to pour energy into things you’ve neglected or have always wanted to try, creative endeavors, hobbies, travel, music, art, volunteer work, new business opportunities and much more.
Think about where you want to live, how you want to live, and how to build a wonderful life, even with the significant changes ahead. Work with your financial advisor to continue building wealth, savings, healthy credit, and a strong retirement.
Lastly, use this time to connect more with those who love you, taking time to talk more often and more openly, get together more frequently, and build the connection you’ve always wanted with them.
Divorce is one of the most dramatic and difficult things you will go through. Yet, it holds the potential to be a time of personal growth, healthier habits, life-giving pursuits, emotional healing, and increased opportunity for you and your children.
Consider all your options. Plan for your future with qualified professionals and get the support you need from friends and family. Divorce takes time, focus, and attention to detail, but it also gives you some things to look forward to if you choose to use these opportunities wisely.
Torrone Law helps individuals and families navigate divorce with ease and confidence by providing clients with superb legal counsel, professional advice, and caring attention. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can help you.
To learn more about preparing for divorce, check out our frequently asked questions below.
Who should I talk to if I’m thinking seriously about divorce?
It’s a great time to look at teaming up with an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate the entire process. They’ll help you understand the ins and outs of everything, including more difficult concepts, like child support payments, rules governing support of an illegitimate child, dissolution of marriage, common-law marriage, along with all the usual topics, like time frames, asset division, child support and custody, alimony, and an overview of how your paperwork, hearings and consultation will go.
Also, consider getting a counselor to discuss these large life changes and their emotional impact on you, your children, and your family unit. Consider mediators to work with you and your spouse. Open a dialogue with friends and family to gain support, care, and help when you need it. Lastly, look to older, level-headed individuals who’ve walked through this process already, people who can mentor you through this season.
Is divorce the same in every state?
No, not completely. Most states have many similar rules when it comes to divorce. However, they will also have specific rules and requirements that are unique to them. It is important to do your research. Read through the divorce pages on your state government’s website. You can also print out divorce forms here. Discuss the process with your lawyer and talk to individuals who have already walked through divorce in your state.
If I’m deep into the process of divorce, is it too late to change my mind?
Nope. You can reconsider your choices all the way up to the actual court hearing. You may have concerns about your marriage relationship or your marriage covenant. If you’re thinking about giving your relationship another go, make sure to have in-depth conversations with your spouse, your kids, your attorney, your counselor, your mediator, and your family and friends.
Whatever you choose, consider it wisely and don’t make rash decisions. Think about the long-term effects for you and your kids and about exactly what you want in your future.