Mentally and emotionally preparing for a divorce is stressful. But at the same time, so is staying in a marriage that’s not working. Making the decision to file for a divorce is a major step — but it’s still just the first step in what could be a long process. If you’ve decided to file for divorce, but are unsure what to do next, everything can seem daunting. First things first, arm yourself with a divorce checklist and prepare any necessary documents you may need to start the proceedings. Here are a few other tips that can help you prepare for a divorce and hopefully, make everything a little simpler along the way.
Start Saving Money
When you’re used to sharing expenses with another person, going back out on your own can be financially challenging. That’s why it’s important to start saving money once you know you’re going to get a divorce. You may also want to open your own bank account, if you haven’t done so already. “The court considers any money you earn while married to be marital property and subject to equitable division between you and your spouse,” Bryan Driscoll writes at LegalZoom. “However, you can open a separate bank account and have your paycheck deposited there to ensure your spouse doesn’t spend that money frivolously before the asset division process.”
Get Organized and Start Documenting Everything
Start getting your paperwork together — everything from financial statements to deeds for any property, to a monthly budget for expenses for the kids. Find a divorce checklist that can help walk you through the process. Meanwhile, start documenting everything. “Because you know you need to provide this to your attorney during your divorce proceeding, start planning now by keeping track of your family finances,” Driscoll writes at LegalZoom. “This includes both your income and spending and that of your spouse. Keep your credit card statements, your bank statements, tax returns, receipts, and other bills.” If you and your spouse have children together, keep a record of their activities and which spouse is responsible for things like taking them to soccer practice, or other extracurriculars or social events.
Given how overwhelming divorce can be, it may be tempting to be a passive participant in the process — but that’s really not in your best interest. “The best way to get through a divorce is to take an active role in the process, even if you are not the initiator,” Cheryl Dillon, a divorce coach tells Equitable Mediation. “You will reach a better settlement and your divorce will likely take less time, be less stressful and cost less money.”
Divorce can seem like a lonely process, so it’s very important to have a strong support system in place to help you through. Whether it’s a group of friends, a trusted family member, a faith-based group, or other organization, there are people who can help. “Recognize that there are sources of divorce support that you can leverage to help you sort through the menagerie of feelings you’re experiencing and learn how to deal with them in a healthy and constructive way,” Dillon tells Equitable Mediation. “When you can control your emotions, you can better prepare yourself for your divorce negotiations and approach them with a calm, level head.”
Not every divorce requires a long, hard-fought court battle over the assets and children: in some cases it’s possible to sort everything out through a mediator. But for this to be an option, both spouses have to agree on absolutely everything and have a completely uncontested divorce. In most cases, though, you’re going to need to find a divorce attorney to represent you in court. This process may take some time, though, as you’ll likely have to meet with several lawyers before finding one that is a good fit for your specific needs.