Four Things to Do Before You File for Divorce

If you're like many people, you just want to get the divorce process over with and behind you as quickly as possible when you decide your marriage is over. You might want to set the divorce wheels in motion immediately and figure that the sooner you start the process, the sooner it's over. But taking a few common-sense steps before you file for divorce can make the process and your transition back to singlehood less difficult.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

One of the first decisions you'll have to make is whether to stay in the marital home or move out into a more peaceful place of your own. If you're thinking of moving out, talking with an attorney should be the first thing on your to-do list.

Custody terms can be set quite early in the divorce process, if not officially. If you leave the house and your kids remain living there with their other parent, this can create a status quo that may be difficult to remedy when your divorce is final. Your spouse may ask for a temporary custody order while your divorce is ongoing. The judge will most likely give her physical custody and you some visitation or parenting time; he's probably not going to order your children to relocate to your new apartment. When your divorce becomes final, the judge may decide that your kids have been doing just fine with the current arrangement so there's no reason to change it. Of course, this presumes you're both good parents and there are no underlying issues such as abuse. If domestic violence or other unbearable circumstances are an issue, you may be able to ask the court for exclusive possession of your home during the divorce, and your spouse would have to move out rather than you. Otherwise, the bottom line is typically that if you have children, you're better off staying stay put.

Document Assets, Income and Debts

Another good reason to stay put in the marital home involves your finances. Documentation pertaining to all your assets, your respective incomes, and your debts are probably there. When you file for divorce, your lawyer is going to ask for copies of these things, so start gathering them before you begin the divorce process, when it's typically easier and nothing has "disappeared" yet. Keep the copies in a safe place, maybe at work or at a friend's house, until you need them. Your lawyer can get this documentation in other ways, through subpoenas or other forms of discovery, but this will cost you a good deal more money than if you just make copies yourself. You might also get a copy of your credit report to make sure you know of all accounts that are open in your name, including joint accounts with your spouse. Then talk to your lawyer about having those joint accounts frozen if your spouse won't agree to close them voluntarily.

Mum's the Word

Social media is not your friend when you're divorcing. In fact, it's becoming more of a factor in custody and alimony issues. You don't want your spouse to be able to access a record of that time you tied one on and posed for a crazy selfie. You don't want her to learn about the cute blonde you started dating after you moved out, or that you're in line for a great promotion and your boss thinks it's yours for the taking. "Unfriending" her won't work because presumably you share other friends, and people talk. If you can wean yourself from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram until your divorce is over, great. Otherwise, restrain yourself. This goes for heart-to-hearts with your best friend in person too. Keep your private business private for a while.

Prepare for Life on Your Own

The final thing you'll want to do before you file for divorce is to create a financial game plan going forward. This is another good reason to consult with a lawyer first. If you have children, he can give you an idea of how much you'll end up paying in child support if you don't win custody. He or she will be able to tell you if it's likely that you'll be paying alimony. Use this information to set a post-divorce budget; by definition, it's probably going to be tighter. Assuming your spouse works, you're accustomed to having two paychecks to support your household. Now you'll be running your household on just your own earnings. You can adjust by downsizing, such as with the size of your home, or you can take on an extra job. But talk to your lawyer before doing so before your divorce is final; you don't want to realize after the divorce dust settles that you're running $1,000 or so short every month.

Of course, if you see a lawyer right away, as soon as you decide to file for divorce, he or she will probably tell you all these things. But if you want to lay the groundwork for a more seamless divorce process before you talk to an attorney, this should give you a good place to start. If you have any questions concerning filing for a divorce, telephone the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for initial in office consultation.

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*Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances