17th Sep 2019
Divorce is usually the result of a long journey through difficult times—more of a prolonged drought than a flash flood. Clients who come to us may be angry, but they are almost always exhausted with fundamentally unhealthy relationships. The decision to divorce is a spectrum from “maybe I could” to “there is no other way.” When you reach the point of certainty, it’s no time to release all your pent-up emotions or to have a juvenile renaissance. This divorce process itself can set the stage for your post-divorce life. Here are the first things you’ll need to do when initiating a divorce.
- Talk to an experienced divorce attorney
The first thing you should do before any other is to consult with an attorney to get information on your specific circumstance. If you ask a range of acquaintances how to proceed, you will get conflicting anecdotal evidence. You need clarity at this time. Legal professionals like Marcus Semmes who are well-versed in family and divorce law will help you prepare for divorce based on your specific situation. Afterward, you will have an idea of what a good result will look like, the timeline you can expect, the most important documents to gather, and the best way to approach your spouse. At no time before talking to an attorney should you tell your children, shared acquaintances, or others who may share your intentions with your spouse.
- Don’t start a new romantic relationship
You may feel an intense need to form new bonds and to escape your withering marriage. You have the rest of life to do that, however, and only one chance to get your divorce right. A new relationship prior to divorce creates hostility from the other spouse like nothing else. It can change their willingness to cooperate. Further, the new relationship can hurt your chances of an equitable financial result if it is determined to have been a factor in divorce. Your new partner may even be brought into court and cross-examined. Finally, having been the parent who couldn’t wait to replace mommy or daddy can make you a villain in your children’s minds.
- Don’t move out
Unless your safety is threatened, you should remain in your shared home with your children. Your share of the home equity and custody of children could be affected by the arrangement that is the status quo when divorce proceedings begin.
- Gather financial information
This will make divorce negotiations move more quickly and in your favor. It will also ensure that an accurate portrayal of family finances is captured before you share your intentions. Here are some things you’ll want to have:
- tax returns
- financial statements
- credit card statements
- wills and titles
- inventory of household possessions
- monthly family budget
- Think about your support network
You will need a group of friends, family, and possibly professionals, partial to your interest. Relying on mutual friends or in-laws can create confusion and distrust. Think about who will be there for you. Many clients prefer to begin receiving counseling while they are going through divorce.
- Tell your spouse
You most definitely do not want your spouse to find out about the divorce when they are served papers. Amicable divorces are handled calmly and with emotional sensitivity. An uncontested divorce with advisement from your attorney may even be possible. If you are, however, unable to have a civil conversation, your attorney can draft a letter to inform your spouse of your intentions and recommend that they obtain counsel.
- Tell your children
No matter how you feel about one another, your children need to hear a unified voice about what divorce means for them and their future. Children can easily become casualties in the angry blame game. Make a commitment to insulate them from the process. You may consider a therapist for your children.
- Discuss living arrangements
If you are on speaking terms and still living with your spouse, you may wish for your attorneys to alter your living situation in a legally binding manner, such that one of you could spend time with relatives, still have access to the children, etc., without affecting asset distribution or custody.
- Make any legitimately pending purchases or sales
During divorce proceedings, your purchases or sales will be scrutinized and possibly taken. Any necessary purchases—upgrading cars or selling rental property—need to be done with transparency prior to filing. The decision to divorce is cathartic, a big release, but tread lightly because the rest of your life will be affected. Progress orderly and thoughtfully, and you will begin living your best life as soon as possible.
Contact the team at Semmes Law here or call 251-317-0117 to see how we can help you navigate through the divorce process.