Ending a marriage is never an easy task, even when both parties agree that the marital union is irretrievably broken. Splitting up a household and dividing your life from your partner can be stressful, frightening, and painful. As you prepare to file for divorce, there are several things you can do yourself to help protect your legal rights, protect your best interests, and assist your Arkansas divorce attorney in preparing a strong divorce strategy to achieve the outcome you desire for your divorce action.
Seven Things to Do Right Now If You Are Contemplating Divorce
1. Get a Post Office Box.
Even if you expect to remain in the marital home, you want to protect your mail throughout the divorce process. Opening a post office box and entering a change of mail request with the post office can ensure you continue to receive your mail and your mail remains confidential. A post office box gives your attorney an additional way to communicate with you in hard copy that is safe and confidential.
2. Organize Your Documents
Once you tell your spouse you want a divorce; it may be more difficult to gather documents. Your spouse may try to prevent you from accessing certain accounts or documents. Therefore, now is the time to gather and organize your important documents for your attorney. Examples of documents you want to gather together include copies of:
- Deeds, titles, registrations, appraisals, and other evidence of ownership of real or personal property
- Tax returns and financial statements, including business records
- Statements of account, including checking, savings, investment, retirement, Social Security, annuities, brokerage, and any other account that you or your spouse might have money invested or own an interest
- Verification of debts, including mortgages, credit card statements, notes, loan agreements, bills, and statements
- Employee benefit handbooks
- Life insurance policies
- Family Trusts and estate planning documents
Additionally, you should secure your personal identification records for you and your children, including your birth certificates, passports, and Social Security cards.
3. Interview Attorneys
It is wise to interview several attorneys before choosing a divorce attorney. While you might not want to ask friends and family members for recommendations because your interest could get back to your spouse, you can read online reviews and search websites for information about specific lawyers (just clear browsing history to retain privacy).
You want an attorney who has experience handling the various aspects of your divorce (i.e. high-net-worth, custody disputes, alimony, property division, etc.). You also want a divorce attorney who takes the time to listen to you fully before offering you advice and suggestions. You should feel comfortable and confident with a lawyer before hiring the person to represent you in your divorce.
4. Develop a Safety Plan
If you live with an abusive spouse or you suspect your spouse may become violent when he or she discovers you want a divorce, it can be wise to have a personalized safety plan in place. A plan addresses the specific needs you might have if an emergency arises. The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence has a sample plan available online.
5. Make a Financial Plan
You need to know how much it will take for you and your children to live on your own after you file for divorce. A personal budget is the best way to determine how much income is needed to pay the bills. A financial plan helps you and your attorney set negotiating goals for the divorce. It also helps you identify areas in your budget that you might need to reduce to make ends meet.
It can also help to have an emergency fund in place before you tell your spouse you want a divorce. Discuss how you can fund an emergency fund with your attorney before transferring money or property.
6. Talk with Your Attorney About Joint Accounts
Before telling your spouse that you are filing for divorce, review all joint financial and debt accounts with your attorney. Depending on your situation, your attorney may advise you to leave the accounts the same, close some accounts, or remove your name from accounts. Your attorney can help you devise a strategy to help avoid your spouse from emptying the accounts and maxing out credit cards in your name.
7. Set Goals for Custody
Matters related to children are typically the most difficult aspect of a divorce action. Take a little time to set your goals for how you want to arrange custody and visitation. Talk to your lawyer about your goals to determine if they are realistic and whether the court might view your goals in a positive light. Knowing your goals before the divorce begins can help you maintain focus on what you want.
Before You File For Divorce Contact an Arkansas Divorce Attorney for More Information
The above steps are just a few of the things that you need to consider when preparing to file for divorce. We can review your situation and provide a specific guideline and checklist for preparing for divorce based on your unique circumstances, needs, and goals. Contact divorce attorney Bryce Cook today for a consultation.