Divorce is not just another breakup – alongside the strong emotional decision of leaving someone you are married to, divorce comes with a host of legal ramifications.
A divorce can be exhausting and painful, and it is possible that you might just be wanting to avoid prolonging the misery and get it over with as soon as possible. However, to make post-divorce life easier for yourself and your children (if any), there are some things you need to take care of when filing for divorce.
Hiring a competent attorney
While it is better for all involved parties if you and your spouse can come to an agreement regarding the divorce terms. However, not every divorce is amicable, and, if your case requires litigation, you need to arm yourself with a capable attorney. A good divorce lawyer should be able to get you what you want quietly and quickly, but if push comes to shove, they should be willing to go the distance for you.
Understanding your financial standing
The distribution of assets and debts is often the cause of most divorce disputes. By having explicit knowledge of you and your partner's financial standing, you can boost your chances of getting your fair share during the settlements.
The first step is to determine your assets – the things you own. Some assets are obvious, such as your house, vehicle, or bank accounts, while others might be more subtle, such as life insurances, pension plans, or valuable pieces of artwork.
Once you have established your assets, make a detailed note of your liabilities or debts. Usually, debts are split depending upon which partner has the greater paying ability. You can obtain a copy of your credit report to get a clear picture of how much you owe and to whom. An experienced divorce attorney can help you review your finances and how to protect yourself in a divorce settlement.
Compiling financial documents
It is one thing to know your financial position; it is another to be able to prove it during divorce proceedings. Hence, it is crucial to gather all critical financial documentation, starting with proof of your incomes. For salaried employees, proof of income would be a pay stub or salary slip. If the two of you are self-employed, you can produce copies of the business' financial statements and bank accounts. You might also need other documents, such as phone records, mortgage papers, car notes, and records of other financial accounts.
Your spouse might not react well to being served with divorce papers and might create obstacles in obtaining these documents. To avoid such a situation, make sure to have all requisite papers ahead of time.
Determining custody objectives
If you are a parent filing for divorce, your children are perhaps your biggest concern. Unless you can prove that your spouse is an unfit parent, you will probably share child custody with them. So, it is best to take some time to figure out your work and other commitments to come up with a satisfactory custody schedule.
If you and your spouse can decide on an arrangement that suits you both, you would have spared yourself a major headache down the road.
Assess all joint financial accounts
It is not unusual for people to raid joint financial accounts prior to an inevitable divorce. Sometimes, spouses do this at the suggestion of their attorneys; other times, they are just spiteful and petty.
If you feel that your spouse might try to clean up any joint accounts, stay ahead of the curve. Take out half the money from all joint accounts and transfer it to a new bank account that is in your own name.
However, do not spend this money recklessly. You will likely have to account for any joint-account money you spend, so make sure to document all your purchases.
Another option is to have the accounts frozen before they can be tampered with. Your attorney will be able to advise you on how best to protect your financial assets.
Form credit in your name
If you are sharing credit with your spouse, it might be difficult for you to make credit purchases post-divorce. To prevent this from happening, you can establish your own credit and gain a good credit score.
If you have no credit, you can get a credit card in your own name and establish some credit before filing the divorce papers.
Work out your living situation
Divorce proceedings can stretch across several weeks or even months, so you will have to decide how you and your spouse will live during that period. You or your spouse could decide to move elsewhere or live together in your current residence.
Do remember that your actions before the divorce will play a key role in determining whether you will be able to use your marital house after divorce. So, if you do not plan to move out post-divorce, remaining in your marital residence during the divorce procedure is probably a good tactic.
Establish your post-divorce budget
Your income and expenses will alter drastically once you are divorced. Remember that, unless the court decides that you are the dependent spouse, you will not share in your partner's income. If the court considers you the supporting partner, you will have to pay a significant portion of your earnings to the dependent spouse.
Make an estimate of what your living costs will be, post-divorce. This way, you will be able to know your future income requirements as well as what you need to demand during your divorce settlements (or a trial, if it comes to that).
Avoid living like you are single
Even though you might see your marriage as over, the state might not. Until the divorce proceedings are over, avoid getting into a romantic relationship. The court might still judge it as an extra-marital affair and even demand that you reimburse any money that you spent on that relationship. Either way, you will severely damage your case if you get into another relationship before filing for divorce. Certain states might permit a new relationship once the divorce is filed, but it is best to discuss this matter with your attorney.
Alter your will
As we mentioned, divorce proceedings can take a long time, and should something unfortunate happen to you during that period; you would want the right people to benefit from it. If you do not have a will, your spouse will automatically get the power of attorney, along with access to your 401k and life insurance. So, make sure to update your will well before you file for divorce.
Maintain peace throughout the proceedings
It is natural to have arguments, fights, and disagreements during the divorce process – after all, divorce itself is one major falling out. However, it is vital to keep your wits about you and calmly handle the whole situation to get the most out of a not-so-pretty situation. Let your lawyer handle as much of the situation as possible.
Irrational behaviors such as confrontations with your spouse or custodial threats will always eventually backfire, so refrain from going off the handle. If you are on the receiving end of such threats or verbal abuse, bring them up to your lawyer instead of retaliating on your own.
To conclude, this article discussed some generic but essential things that you can do to ensure smooth and favorable divorce proceedings. However, the truth is that no two divorce cases are identical (or even similar), and therefore, the ideal approach will also differ from case to case. Hence, it is best to consult an attorney and discuss your situation with them.
Tommalieh Law has years of experience serving clients in the Orland Park area. Our family law attorneys have the knowledge to assist you with divorce, child support, alimony, and other family law issues. We are dedicated to serving our clients and providing them with high quality legal advice. Contact us today to schedule your FREE consultation and learn more about filing for divorce.