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Helpful Tips Before Starting a Divorce Case

If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, there may be many questions in your mind. Starting a divorce certainly is not easy. Taking certain steps before you begin your case, may help make the process smoother.

Below you will find several helpful tips before starting your divorce case.

1. Consult with an Attorney

The first step is to consult a family law attorney. You will want to consult a family law attorney for a variety of reasons. First, to understand your rights. Only a licensed attorney can provide you with legal advice. An attorney experienced in family law will not only inform you about the law, but they will also provide you with guidance to make the best decision for your case.

A family law attorney can also walk you through the process of a divorce. They will explain a divorce case from beginning to end. There are many resources available online to assist you, but making a connection with an attorney will be far more useful than reading information online.

2. Gather Important Documentation

Before filing for divorce, you want to ensure that you have secured important documentation.

Important documentation is anything that you believe will enhance your case, that you think would make great evidence for your case, and that holds value.

Regarding property, you will want to gather real property documents, closing statements for your home, documentation evidencing the down payment of your house (if there is a separate property claim), and titles for vehicles.

If you have children, you’ll want to make sure that you have gathered voicemails, text messages, and emails related to your children. This could be emails from the other parent, the school, a counselor, or a health professional. Photos and videos of your children at their activities are a great way to showcase a glimpse of your life. Education records, school attendance records, report cards, doctor’s reports, and dentist reports could also be helpful in your case.

You will also want to gather photos, videos, or police reports if there has been any physical abuse or altercations. If your spouse has pending criminal charges or has been convicted of a crime, secure the case information.

It may be important for you to protect your own birth certificate, Social Security Card, passport, immigration information, or other vital documentation. No one can predict how a party will react when served divorce papers. It is essential to secure these important documents prior to your spouse being served.

If you are worried that this documentation could be destroyed, take photos or make copies of everything.

3. Gather Financial Information

In a divorce, community property will be determined, and separate property will be confirmed if it exists. It is important that you have documentation of all community property and separate property. The financial aspect of a divorce is one of the most important pieces. Having these documents readily available will reduce stress if you’re asked to produce these documents during the discovery process.

You will want to gather at least two years’ worth of statements of the following:

  • Bank Account statements (all statements regardless of who’s name is on the account);
  • Retirement statements;
  • Investment and Brokerage Account statements;
  • Credit Card statements;
  • Mortgage statements;
  • Personal Loan statements; and
  • Vehicle Loan statements.

It will also be important for you to gather the following documents:

  • Last two tax returns, and any information related to money owed to the I.R.S.;
  • Health insurance information;
  • Last three paystubs; and
  • Kelly Bluebook Values for your vehicles.

If you are trying to prove that you own separate property, you will want to ensure that you have evidence documenting the separate property. Separate property claims can sometimes be complicated. It is important to consult with an attorney to discuss your separate property claim and formulate a plan on how to prove separate property.

4. Prepare a Budget

Before filing for divorce, you will want to have an understanding of how much money it takes to run your household. Get familiar with your household finances. Know that things are inevitability going to change when filing for divorce, and they will certainly change once you are officially divorced.

Having a budget is going to make the transition from a dual income to a single household income manageable. It is also going to provide you with a realistic roadmap post-divorce. Oftentimes a spouse wants to keep the marital home. But what if your income does not allow for that? By creating a budget, you can make an informed decision when it comes to the settlement of your property.

When creating a budget, take a realistic look at the now and later.

  1. What are you spending now and how much income do you have?
  2. What will I be spending in the future and how much income will I have?

To set up your budget, first think of income.

  • What are you receiving from your employer?
  • Can you receive overtime or tips?
  • Do you or will you receive child support?

After you’ve determined your income, deduct expenses like taxes, retirement contributions, or health insurance.

Next, you will want to establish your necessary monthly expenses. This would include things like:

  • House payment/rent
  • Utilities
  • Grocery/food
  • Car payments
  • Insurance payments
  • Gas
  • Childcare
  • Tuition/extracurricular activities
  • Entertainment

Don’t forget to build in a cushion for emergencies.

A financial advisor can certainly assist in developing a budget. A safe rule, however, is that you want to ensure your expenses do not outweigh your income. You don’t want to live above your means.

5. Establish a Support System

Divorce is going to be hard, even if you and your spouse have resolved your disputes amicably. Your life is going to change, and it may be difficult to cope with that. You want to have a support system in place to lean on when times get hard.

Family and friends are a great source of encouragement. You may also look into finding a therapist to help navigate this journey. Though it may sound silly, the song Lean on Me rings true, “We all need someone to lean on.” Establish your network of support before diving into the divorce process – don’t try and go through it alone. Even if you do, know your attorney is there to support you.

6. Think About Yourself

You’re going to want to think about yourself before filing for divorce. Take some time to ask yourself the hard questions. Access the situation – think about your feelings toward your spouse and the reason for the decision. Ensure that divorce is the best course of action. You may feel the pull between starting the divorce process or staying put. The decision ultimately has to come from you.

As divorce attorneys, we are advocates of reconciliation when the circumstances present themselves. When the circumstances are right and you’re ready to take the next step, our attorneys are here to navigate this process with you. If you are thinking about divorce or are ready to take the next step, let us help guide you through this difficult time.