One of the toughest things to do is taking that first step toward ending a marriage that you thought would last a lifetime. This is not where you thought you would be when you were exchanging vows and planning receptions and the honeymoon.
It’s ok…you need to look forward. You deserve to be happy, right???? If you don’t think so…contact me and I will direct you to another site to help you figure that out first.
Deciding the marriage is over doesn’t necessarily mean running to the courthouse and filing a Complaint for Divorce. You have work to do first. I suggest doing some planning and homework before you get the court involved in your life.
Because, I’ll be honest with you…the court is not your friend, your advocate, or a shoulder to cry on. Once the court is aware you are alive married and looking to get divorced, you will be pushed, prodded and coerced into finalizing the process as quickly as possible.
The court wants you out of its life too. Before you announce to your spouse and the court that you want a divorce, you need to get a head start and prepare yourself for the process that lies ahead. You need to mentally prepare for this journey…it will be a journey. Your head had to be clear and you have to be focused. So, what do you do? Here are a few of the “must do’s” before you start the formal dissolution process.
DIVORCE PREPARATION CHECKLIST
Make sure this is what you want. The process of getting divorced is not a pleasant one. Unless you and your spouse are extremely mature and both on the same page, chances are emotions will get the best of one or both of you at some point. Before you take a ride on this roller coaster, make sure it’s what you want.
If you have children, how will you deal with the split up with them? How will they handle it? Do you have a plan in place to address these issues when they come up? The best time to figure all this out is before you file the Complaint and are being pushed by the court.
Do your homework. If the communication process between you and your spouse has broken down, it’s that much more important to plan before filing the Complaint and pissing your spouse off (at least pissing him/her off more than they already are). Get your financial documents in order. Do you know the marital financial accounts you have? Do you have access to all joint accounts? If not, can you find statements, or go to the bank and get access there?
Do you know what accounts your spouse has, joint or not? You will need to exchange bank and credit card statements at some point, so the sooner you can get copies, or ensure you have access to these accounts the better. The point here is to know what is included in the financial pie. If you don’t even know what accounts you have, how can you make informed decisions about asset distribution or support?
Hope for the best; prepare for the worst. Getting divorced doesn’t have to be contentious, expensive, or long. However, often it is because the parties want to play out their emotional drama and best the other (whatever that means).
There is rarely ever a “winner” in a divorce; in fact if you have to have custody evaluations, chances are you used up most, if not all, of your children’s college savings. You know your situation better than anybody else. Before you get started and break the official news that you want a divorce, just be mentally prepared for what’s to come and how your spouse will react.
Hopefully, it will be a smooth, quick process, but be prepared if it’s not.
Have you attempted to reconcile? Are you crazy?! What is this lunatic talking about…reconcile? Ok ok, settle down.
Why is this important? When you start the divorce process, things happen. By this I mean your life is exposed in a way you probably never envisioned. Your finances are dissected, your behavior, your conduct, where you spend every penny each month.
Your credit card bills for the last few years will be scrutinized. Do you want strangers reading your private emails and text messages you thought were private when you wrote them? Your kids…what about the effect on your kids?
Not that you shouldn’t get divorced because of any one of these things, but they are real and you will have to deal with them as part of the process. My point is that if there is any chance on saving the marriage and you want to explore that…you should do it before you get deep into the divorce process. Divorce, especially litigation (going to court) makes people put up their emotional defenses and want to push back to protect themselves. They feel attacked and most people don’t appreciate having their lifestyle or purchases questioned by total strangers…whether your spouse’s attorney or the court.
Before you start the process, research and look into alternate options to litigation. If you’re not sure what litigation is don’t worry; litigation simply a legal term for resolving your case through the court system in an adversarial manner. There are other ways to get divorced other than through the court. For example, what about mediation or collaborative divorce? These are commonly referred to as ADR. I’ll get into these areas in more detail in a separate post, but they can drastically alter how the process goes, procedurally, emotionally and financially.
If you are able to communicate with your spouse without fighting all the time, see if you can broach the subject and find out if they are amenable to it; after you break the news that you want a divorce, this may be the preferred way to go. What I’m trying to tell you is that there is more than one way to skin the divorce cat and it makes sense to explore all your options. Know that even if you begin with litigation, you can always switch to another method of dispute resolution at any time.
The Race To The End
Once the Complaint for Divorce is filed with the court, your case is now on the court’s radar and they will push the process along, whether you’re ready or not, until the divorce is finalized. Now, if you did your homework and are prepared, this may not bother you, but if you’re not ready, you will feel like you’re being pulled along and the feeling of overwhelm will be that much greater for you. Know the process.
A divorce is typically broken up into stages. Every state has it’s own procedure, but generally the process includes some form of the following:
- File the Complaint
- Exchange Discovery
- Conference with Court
- Custody or forensic evaluations
- Settlement Conferences
A party can file a motion with the court at any point during the process.
Food For Thought
Before you jump into the divorce process, do your due diligence and get as much information about your marriage and the lifestyle you have been living before you tell your spouse or file a Complaint in court. Now is the time, the calm before the storm, where you should be able to get most of this stuff done without your spouse watching your every move.
Whatever you do, be careful and don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation. No bank statement is worth a domestic violence incident.
If you are thinking about getting divorced and have started the information gathering process, let me know how it is going by adding a comment below. What are your concerns, questions? I read every comment and will do my best to respond to you.
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