After countless attempts to repair your marriage, you’ve finally come to the conclusion that your union can’t be fixed and that the best decision is to leave. While arriving at this decision takes an immense amount of mental and emotional work within itself, in the grand scheme, it’s only half the battle. Now that you have acknowledged that you don’t wish to continue in your marriage, it’s time to get your ducks in a row. Here are six important steps to take as you prepared to file for divorce.
Consult an attorney
It could take a while before you meet an attorney who meets your individual needs, so it’s a good idea to begin shopping around once you’re certain that you want to go through with the divorce. Most attorneys will offer a free consultation, but of course, you should always inquire about the cost of the meeting before scheduling. Since you have options when it comes to selecting an attorney, you should treat each consultation like an interview. Be sure to ask about rates and retainer fees so that you’ll have a clear idea about which attorneys suit your financial situation. An attorney can let you know upfront what your options are for the divorce process as well as custody if you share children with your spouse.
Gather your financial records
When you hire an attorney, they will likely request financial documentation from you. Some of these documents may include recent check stubs belonging to both you and your spouse, copies of joint and individual tax returns, bank statements, mortgage statements, life insurance statements, and documentation related to marital debt, just to name a few. Even if you aren’t quite ready to file or inform your spouse of your decision to file, it might be a good idea to start compiling these items in advance.
“Any woman who has made the decision to divorce should have last 3 years financial records for themselves and their spouse including bank statements, credit card statements, loan statements, investment account statements, trust documents, business records if either spouse is self-employed, records for all cars, boats and real estate owned, employment contracts and federal, state and local tax returns,” R. Kenneth Jewell, matrimonial attorney at Jewell Law PLLC, told MadameNoire.
Open a separate bank account
If you know that you’ll be filing for divorce soon and your only accounts are joint ones, you may want to consider opening your own separate account. Some recommend opening this account at a different bank than the one where you have a joint account with your spouse.
Build up your savings
Divorce can be costly, so it will be helpful to start beefing up your personal savings account and have your own little nest egg once you venture out on your own. Further, having cushiony savings can help to absorb legal costs associated with the divorce.
“Divorce is a big change, especially in your wallet,” said Ande Frazier, CFP and CEO of MyWorth. “Many times you’re going from two incomes to one, and this can greatly affect your monthly finances. To get started take an inventory of all the expenses you will need to cover. Don’t forget to also look at health insurance premiums and deductibles, after-school activities, child care, phone bills and security deposits. How will these expenses change? Who will be responsible for covering these costs? Getting accurate on all of your expenses and obligations will help you define what income you will need to cover these costs.”
Get familiar with custody laws
Once you hire a great attorney, she will make you aware of the child custody laws that govern your state and county. However, when it comes to your kids, it’s wise to do your own research so that you can have somewhat of an idea of what you’re up against.
Connect with a therapist
Even when you’re certain that you want out, divorce can trigger unanticipated grief. Despite have valid reasons for leaving, it’s still possible to still mourn the loss of your marriage. A licensed therapist can help you to work through these feelings in a constructive way.