The American Psychological Association states that almost half of all marriages end in divorce in the United States. During this tumultuous and stressful time, it is important to ensure that you have considered all options and laid a strong foundation for your divorce, before asking for one. Divorce is always upsetting for all the parties involved. Taking these steps prior to asking for a divorce can help ensure that the process is smoother and possibly less adversarial.
1. Be Sure You Want a Divorce
Marriage is hard. Two people with different points of view on life are bound to disagree. Emotions can run high when you are upset with serious issues in your marriage. The decision to get divorced often begins as an emotional one.
Make sure you have taken time and done everything you think you can to save your marriage. Counseling, with either a professional therapist or pastor, can help turn a rocky road into a smoother, more manageable one.
Once you serve divorce papers, it may be difficult to change courses, even if your feelings change. Your spouse may be so angered or hurt that the damage is done, and you are faced with an outcome that you now regret. Divorce is serious and changes the lives of everyone involved, so ensure that this is the direction and path you really want.
2. Take Inventory of Your Finances
Before emotions begin to run high, take a solid look and inventory of your finances. Go through your safety deposit box or safe and take pictures of everything you have. Additionally, take pictures of any valuable items, including furniture and jewelry that you may have in your home.
It is important to note that items may be valuable to you, but hold no financial worth, such as yearbooks or scrapbooks. Make sure to place those in a safe place in case you need to access them quickly, or in case your spouse becomes angry and throws them away.
If you have separate bank accounts, consider changing your passwords to safeguard your assets. If you have a will, consider updating it if needed to reflect your new situation.
Create a spreadsheet with all of your assets and debts, that includes all property, retirement and pension accounts, bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards, or other debts. While hiring an accountant is typically not necessary prior to divorce, it is important to understand your financial situation and help you budget for your divorce and your life after your divorce.
3. Determine Your Custody Goals
Your children are likely the most important concern to you as you begin to prepare for a divorce. Under almost all circumstances, barring egregious circumstances, the judge will order joint custody of the children to both spouses.
Courts have always favored allowing children to have the support of both parents, with shared custody and time. As you will likely have to co-parent your children with your spouse for a long time, it is important that you attempt on your part to make the divorce process amicable.
4. Determine Your Living Situation
Determine what you want your living situation to be after your divorce. Unless there are physical or other types of abuse, it is typically best not to leave the marital home prior to the divorce. If there is abuse, leave immediately and contact the police. However, in other circumstances, your behavior leading up to the divorce can impact the court’s decision regarding who keeps the marital home.
5. Make Any Purchases
In a divorce proceeding, a judge will often issue an order that prohibits either party from making any large purchase or selling any large asset. Courts issue these orders to prevent one spouse from completely draining a bank account or going on a spending spree that drains the assets of the marriage.
However, if you are going to make any purchases before a divorce, it is important to note that you are not allowed to drain the marriage assets, even if there is not a court order regarding your finances. Contacting an experienced attorney can help you make the determination if your purchase or sale of an asset is appropriate in your case.
6. Develop a Strong Support Network
One of the most important things you can do to prepare for a divorce is to create a foundation of friends and family that will support you during this emotional time. While it is never a good idea to make any statements, comments, or posts on social media, having a strong network of friends and family to rely upon during your divorce process will help you emotionally.
Consider seeking counseling from a therapist or from a pastor at your church. Your emotional stability during the divorce will help not only you, but your children, and help you make the wisest decisions as you move forward.
7. Meet with an Experienced Divorce Attorney
One of the most important things you need to do before asking for a divorce is to contact an experienced divorce attorney to understand your legal rights, and what course of action you should take. An attorney can advise you on finances, child custody, alimony and how best to move forward in your particular case.