It’s not something people ever think they’ll have to do - prepare for their divorce. But for couples that are headed in that direction, the best thing you can do is be prepared for what is to come. If you’re convinced that your marriage will be ending in divorce, and that your relationship with your spouse is irretrievably broken, then you should take some steps in preparation.
Consult an Family Law Attorney
It’s important that you are completely aware of your legal rights and responsibilities when you start the divorce process. A family law attorney can help advise you on everything related to divorce: the paperwork, child custody arrangements, spousal support, and how property will be divided. You’ll want to consult an attorney at every step of the process to make sure that you are protected.
Copy Legal Documents
One of the hardest parts of divorce is the paperwork. You’ll want to make sure you have everything, including the following:
- tax returns,
- bank statements,
- investment statements,
- retirement account statements,
- employee benefits handbooks,
- life insurance policies,
- mortgage documents,
- financial statements,
- credit card statements,
- Social Security statements,
- automobile titles,
- joint accounts like phones and utilities,
- any joint business venture information
You’ll want to ensure that you have copies of any financial data, whether it be electronic or physical copies. Making sure you have all this information will make the process much quicker.
Inventory Household and Possessions
Property division is a big aspect of the agreement process of divorce. Major assets include: homes, furniture, artwork, jewelry, and appliances. Property is decided according to your state’s specific laws. This has the potential to be very litigious during a divorce.
Separate and Community Property
Separate Property: property that each spouse brings into the marriage. That spouse retains that after the marriage. This also includes property inherited by a spouse during the time of the marriage. Community Property: property acquired and income earned during the marriage. In the comment property states of Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, community property is usually divided 50-50. Remaining states use a property division principle called equitable distribution. With equitable distribution, property is divided fairly (50-50). Occasionally the highest wage earner is given 60 percent to 75 percent of the property. Regardless of how your marital property is divided, you need to protect yourself. Your ex might not make the payments for various reasons - lack of money, spite, illness. In that case, you might need to return to court or various other means of collecting the lost payment. Because of that, it’s often advised that you protect yourself by getting cash in hand once the divorce agreement is reached. If it’s decided that your ex will pay you out following the sale of an asset, wait until the sale is final, and then ensure you get the money to finalize your divorce.
Know Your Current Household Budget and Expenses
Preparing for divorce is knowing how your household money is currently being handled. Often times this means that only one spouse is fully aware of the couple’s financial picture. If you are planning for a divorce, it is pertinent that you understand your household’s financial picture, including the amount that goes towards utilities, mortgages, and typical household expenses. Getting a better idea of how much is spent every month currently will also help you prepare for when you are budgeting and managing your household after the divorce.
If you and your spouse have racked up a considerable amount of debt during your marriage, you will have to determine what happens to that debt during divorce. If you are able to, it’s advised that you pay down as much debt as possible prior to divorcing. Allocation of marital debt among divorcing spouses can be one of the most difficult items to negotiate. You’ll also want to have an idea of what your debts were like prior to the marriage - so any debt that would be considered “non-marital debt.” This can include student loans and any other lines of credit that were not transferred over during the marriage. This debt belongs to the spouse who incurred it.
Know What Your Spouse Earns
For most couples, this information is available simply by looking at a pay-stub. For couples where one spouse is self-employed or owns a business, or receives any portion of income in cash, it can be hard to determine. If this information is not available to you, try to keep track of money that is flowing in. If you are suspicious of your spouse’s spending habits, you’ll want to try to get as much information as possible. You can also work with a family law attorney to figure out how to obtain this information in a legal way.
Get a Job
There is a chance that you or your spouse are not employed. Sometimes one spouse will remain at home to take care of the family, while the other spouse supports the family. If you have been out of the workforce for a while, you will need to assess your employability. Will you be able to obtain a job easily or will you need further education or training?
Know Your Credit History
Do you know what your current credit score is? If not, then you need to find out. Divorce can impact this, and you’ll want to know what your score is so you can plan accordingly.
Once your divorce is finalized, your financial picture will be completely up to you. That means it will all be on your shoulders. It’s important that you be able to support your family. This might mean saving some money now.
Put your Kids First
Divorce can be very hard on children. If you and your spouse cannot agree to child custody arrangements, you will need to find a way to make it work. A family law attorney can help with this.
Steps for the Divorce Process
Know that every couple’s relationship and marriage is different and that because of that every divorce will be different. For example, you might need to work out child custody agreements, while your friend’s divorce did not include child custody issues. Working with an attorney is the best way to determine the specific needs of your divorce. Still, there are some basic procedures that might apply. We discuss those steps below.
1. File Petition
The first step in the divorce process is filing a petition. This must be done even if both spouses are okay with divorcing. One spouse must file a petition with the court to ask for a divorce. This petition states the grounds for divorce. In California, this is typically “irreconcilable differences.”
2. Temporary Orders
If a spouse is dependent on the other for financial support or will have custody of the children, that spouse will need to ask the court for temporary orders for support and custody. A temporary order for these things is usually granted within a few days and remains in effect until a full court hearing. If the spouse seeking the temporary order is the same spouse that is filing the petition, they should file the temporary order at the same time. If the spouse seeking the temporary order did not file the petition, they need to file their request for the temporary order as soon as possible.
3. Service of Process
The spouse that files the divorce petition will also need to proof of service of process. This is a document that proves a copy of the divorce petition was given and received by the other spouse. You can either work with a process server, or in most cases when you work with a divorce attorney, they handle this part of the process.
The spouse receiving the service of process needs to file a response to the petition. The responding spouse may want to dispute the alleged grounds for divorce. If there is disagreement regarding property division, support, custody, or any other issue, this should be set out in the response.
Spouses will need to negotiate their differences if there are any. This is when mediation or collaborative divorce processes work. If spouses still do not agree, they may need to go to trial.
If spouses cannot come to an agreement on any aspect of a divorce, they will need to go to trial where a divorce court judge will rule on the divorce agreement.
7. Creation of the Order of Dissolution
The order of dissolution is a decree that officially ends the marriage and spells out how all aspects of a marriage, including: the property and debts, custody, support and any other issues are to be divided. Two spouses that are able to negotiate on their own are able to draft an order of dissolution and submit it to the court. If this complies with the set legal requirements and both parties entered into it knowingly and willingly, then a judge approves it.
Working with a Divorce Attorney
If you are facing a divorce, you should work with a divorce attorney that can take a look at your specific situation and give you advice based on it, rather than approach it with a one size fits all mindset. Your specific situation will be particular to you and your marriage and the way your life was set up during the marriage. This might mean major financial decisions regarding retirement funds, property, child support and custody, and alimony. A divorce attorney will work with you to help you decide how you want to tackle these elements of your marriage and divorce, while also providing guidance and support. They will be able to lead you through the process while keeping you from procrastination and caving into pressure. They’ll also be able to help ensure you meet all the required timelines while ensuring that you get a fair case and trial should you need to go to court. Lastly, they’ll be able to help you find the freedom and new life you are seeking - one that is entirely on your terms. For advice on divorce, you need the expert law firm of 619 DIVORCE. Schedule a consultation today. (619) DIVORCE 3555 4th Ave San Diego, CA 92103 Phone: (619) 503-3050