Divorce is one of the most confusing legal circumstances, especially because it will be an introduction to the legal system for most people and it can become highly contested in some situations. When a divorce becomes necessary, getting started correctly can make a difference and help everything go smoother. Before filing, there are essential tasks to take care of, including the following.
Find a Lawyer to Work With
Take the time to find the right lawyer to work with, which can make the entire process easier to handle. A lawyer will be able to walk their clients through the whole process, explaining everything along the way and helping the client make decisions when needed. Start with a divorce consultation to learn more about a lawyer and to decide whether or not to hire them. Then, start getting all essential documents together to share with the lawyer so that the attorney can use them in the divorce.
Gather Personal Information
Gather personally identifiable documents, such as a driver’s license, and write down a list of personal information for both spouses, as the lawyer will need this. Include birthdays, marriage date, employment information, salary details, any previous marriages, information about children involved in the divorce, insurance policies, and more. Write down what led to the divorce, too.
Create a List of Lifestyle Information
This list should include details on expenses, whether yearly or monthly, that both spouses pay. The lifestyle information consists of the typical monthly budget for the household, educational expenses, medical bills, and more. The information here may be needed to help split payments that both spouses will be responsible for, such as educational expenses, and to show the budget for both spouses.
Prepare Financial Documents
It is good to organize financial documents, so they’re easy to access when needed. Financial records will be required during the divorce to show how much each spouse makes, debts owed by both spouses, and more. Include copies of bank statements for all bank accounts, investment information, savings or bonds, and other funds. Even if the funds are not split during the divorce, such as an inheritance, include the paperwork. Create copies of vital financial documents to provide to the lawyer.
List Personal Property
Create a list of all personal property and the value, if known. The personal property list should include real estate information, such as the deed to the house and the value for smaller items that may need to be split during the divorce, such as jewelry or family heirlooms. Write down the value of vehicles and any other essential information about the vehicles, like the VIN and loan information.
Gather Estate Planning Documents
If there are any estate documents, such as life insurance policies or a will, make copies to provide to the lawyer. The estate planning category can also include healthcare directives, power of attorney paperwork, trusts, and similar documents. These may need to be updated during or after the divorce, so having them together can make updating them easier even if they aren’t used in the divorce.
Prepare for a Parenting Arrangement
The parents may disagree on a custody and visitation schedule. For now, just get something in place to make sure both spouses can see the children, whether or not there is any intention of it being the final arrangement. The parenting arrangement can be adjusted as needed during the divorce, but creating an arrangement now can help the spouses start to figure out what will work better for their unique situation. Updates can always be made later as needed, including after the divorce is finalized.
Start Separating Everything
Go ahead and start separating everything. Open a new bank account without the spouse and start placing some money into it. Follow the attorney’s guidelines to avoid taking too much money from a shared account or risking any potential issues during the divorce. Start thinking about how to split a family-owned business if there is one, how to purchase health insurance if it’s needed, and update any insurance documents.
Decide on Living Arrangements
Now’s a good time to think about the new living arrangements. If it’s not possible to remain in the home during the divorce, consider who will stay and who will move somewhere else. Be sure to speak with a lawyer before moving out, though. When one spouse moves out before the divorce, it can be seen as giving up the right to the property. Talking to a lawyer can help the client prevent this from happening.
Create a List of Potential Issues and Questions
There will be many questions for the lawyer, such as how the divorce process works, who gets what, how child custody is determined, and how to get child support. Keep a notebook handy while gathering all necessary information for the divorce, and write down all questions. Also, keep a list of potential issues to discuss with the lawyer to get more information about what to expect during the divorce.
Make Copies and Get Organized
Create copies of everything and make sure it is all organized carefully in a folder or binder. Depending on the amount of information, splitting everything into multiple binders may be necessary to keep it organized. Bring the binder or binders to the consultation and be prepared to provide copies of vital information to the lawyer reviewing the divorce case. They’ll need a lot of this information to file for the divorce or throughout the process.
Every divorce is different, but there are basic necessities to have on hand from the beginning. This list should provide a good starting point for anyone considering a divorce. Gather all information and then schedule a consultation to learn more about getting a divorce and to find a lawyer to help with the case. By being prepared, it’s much easier to jump right in and get everything started, and it’ll help everything move more smoothly as the divorce progresses.