Steps To Take Before Filing For Divorce Or Shortly Afterward
Note: You can perform most of these steps after you file, but the more you accomplish beforehand can help your attorney in filing your petition for divorce. Also, most of these steps also apply to the spouse on whom the divorce papers were served.
Be Certain You Want to Get Divorced. The decision to get divorced is an emotional one, and shouldn’t be made when you’re feeling overly emotional. Make sure you’ve exhausted all hope of reconciliation before you file for divorce. Once you’ve served your spouse with divorce papers, it can be difficult to go back on that decision, even if you’ve changed your mind. The court can grant a divorce even if only one spouse wants to end the marriage. If you’d still like to give marital counseling a try, do so before you file for divorce.
Hire a Family Law Attorney That Will Fight For You. Some attorneys take the easy route and will always settle your case, sometimes for less than you could have received. You’ll want to work with an attorney that fits your style, and understands your goals for litigation (whether to be aggressive or avoid it). Avoid lawyers who offer you solutions before listening to the particular facts of your case. If your divorce is likely to be messy or deals with specific types of assets, especially business or farm, be sure your attorney is qualified to handle your particular case. At Birk Law Firm, we have handled divorce cases that are amicable and ones that are very contested. We have handled divorce cases that are very simple and very complicated. But in every case, we will fight for you and keep you informed and discuss with you how to proceed in your case.
Gather Financial Documents. Your assets, liabilities, income, and expenses are all relevant to the divorce. This includes retirement accounts, home, business, farm, joint accounts with others, and almost any account of you or your spouse. All accounts won’t necessarily be divided, but you are required to disclose all of them to the court. If you think you will have problems accessing the information after you file, gather all the documents you’ll need for your case before filing for divorce. If you and your spouse have a shared file of paper records in your home, make copies of everything before meeting with your attorney or bring it with you and the attorney’s office can copy it. It’s also smart to obtain records of your shared online accounts. Not all spouses react well to being served with divorce papers, and some will make it difficult to access documents after you’ve filed. You will help yourself by getting your hands on the documents ahead of time.
Know the household budget and expenses. Review your check register for the past year and record each utility, mortgage, and other household expense for each month. Track your cash spending also so that you’ll be able to determine your monthly cash expenses also.
Determine Your Goals for Custody. If you have young children, their custody situation is probably the most important thing to you. You should know that usually you and your spouse will end up sharing custody of the children. You should review your work schedule, your children’s schedule, and your other commitments and determine a schedule for custody that you prefer. The judge will usually approve of a custody schedule (Parenting Plan) with which you and your spouse agree. If you can’t agree, the judge will decide.
Make Necessary Purchases or Sales. The judge in your case will automatically issue an order at the very beginning of your divorce case that prohibits you or your spouse from selling, buying, or otherwise encumbering or disposing of any property that you own. Courts do this to prevent either spouse from depleting the bank accounts, or wasting the assets of the marital estate.
If you’ve been planning to upgrade your car, or sell property, you’ll be prevented from doing so after one of you files for divorce. While you should not deplete the bank accounts before filing for divorce since that will be harmful to you in the divorce process, if you have a legitimate sale or purchase that you were planning, and it is reasonable, you may want to complete it before filing for divorce.
Figure Out Your Living Situation. Usually you will not want to live in the same residence with your spouse during the divorce. Do you want to move out or do you want your spouse to move out? What can you afford? Decide what your goals are for your living situation, both during and after the divorce. Where you and your spouse live before and at the time of filing for divorce will affect, but not determine, where you will live afterwards. Moving in with a relative or friend in the weeks leading up to your divorce will hurt your chances of staying in the residence during the divorce. Speak with us at Birk Law Firm about how to best position yourself for the living situation you desire.
Consider Joint Bank Accounts and Credit Cards. We at Birk Law Firm may advise you to close joint financial accounts and credit cards or leave them alone, depending on the facts of your case. After filing, your spouse could still incur bills in your name or deplete the bank accounts. Your divorce attorney can best advise you about whether you should divide the accounts in half, close them, or leave them the same before filing for divorce.
Don’t Live Like You’re Single. Even if your marriage is broken, it is better for your divorce case if you refrain from living the single life prior to filing for divorce. Even if you and your spouse are living separately, having a romantic relationship with another person can sometimes be used against you. Additionally, a judge may consider money you spend on another person against you and could require you to reimburse your spouse for those expenditures. No two cases are exactly alike and similar situations can have different results. In any case, it typically doesn’t help your case to have started another relationship before your divorce has been filed. In some states you can begin a relationship after filing for divorce; speak with your attorney about how the court will view dating before your divorce is complete.
That said, the attorneys at Birk Law Firm have represented many persons filing for divorced or whom were served divorce papers that have had a relationship with someone else before or after the divorce filing. We are experienced in dealing with these situations and minimizing their impact on your divorce.
Inventory Your Assets and Liabilities. You can’t decide your financial goals for your divorce without having an accurate picture of your assets and debts. It’s a good idea to put together a simple balance sheet showing all of your assets and debts. You’ll have to do this for the additional court filings after you file for divorce anyway. Include real property, cars, retirement accounts, bank accounts and other assets, as well as any mortgages, notes, credit cards, and other debts. This can give you an idea of what you and your spouse will split, and you can start working on your desired division of the marital estate.
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