Smart Thing #1: Inform Yourself. The more you know about separation and divorce, the better prepared you will be for what lies ahead. The better you understand the legal process and the divorce laws, the more reasonable your expectations will be. A good way to inform yourself is by reading my Consumer’s Guide to Divorce. You may request a copy by calling (281) 206-2676.
Smart Thing #2: Watch out for joint accounts and joint loans. In a matter of minutes, your spouse can empty your joint bank account. If your spouse does this, how will you make it until your next payday? Similarly, your spouse can run up your joint line of credit leaving you financially responsible for it. You can prevent this from happening by taking half of the money in your joint bank account and by cancelling joint credit cards and lines of credit.
Smart Thing #3: Think about your divorce objectives. Decide what is important for you. Do you want to obtain sole custody of your children or would joint custody work better? Do you want to stay in the matrimonial home or would it be better to sell your home and move on? For help in focussing on your divorce objectives, see my Divorce Objectives Form.
Smart Thing #4: Continue to spend time with your children. It is easy to get wrapped up with your own problems at this difficult time and not be as good a parent as you used to be. Spending as much time with your children as you can will not only help them, but will help you keep your mind off of your worries.
Smart Thing #5: Collect documents. To divide your property and deal with support issues, you will need to provide extensive financial documentation to your lawyer. It may become very difficult or costly to obtain these documents once legal proceedings start. It is a good idea to photocopy all your and your spouse’s financial documents and keep them in a secure place. You can then provide the documents to your lawyer.
Smart Thing #6: Save your money. Divorce is an expensive process, so you will need to ensure that you have sufficient money to get through it. You do not want to cut costs by hiring a second-rate lawyer. Also, you may have the expenses of moving and setting up a new household. The money that used to support just one household will now have to support two households.
Smart Thing #7: Get emotional support. Going through a divorce is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to you. Dealing with the emotional and financial stresses all by yourself is difficult. It is important to reach out to family, friends and especially professional counselors at this trying time in your life. Do not be afraid to ask for help.
Smart Thing #8: Familiarize yourself with your financial situation. You should know, in general terms, about what your and your spouse’s assets, liabilities, income and expenses are.
Smart Thing #9: Record important events. Spend a few minutes at the end of the day recording what happened during that day in a journal. Even insignificant things may turn out to be important evidence in the future.
Smart Thing #10: Organize your information. To start your divorce, your lawyer will need a lot of facts. It will save you a lot of legal fees if you are organized in advance and able to provide your lawyer with this information. For help in preparing this information, see my Divorce Information Form.
Smart Thing #11: Prepare a list of questions for your lawyer. Going through a divorce is a bewildering process. You probably have a lot of questions that you want to have answered. By preparing a list of these questions, you can be sure that your lawyer addresses all of your concerns.
Smart Thing #12: Do not sign anything. It is common for one spouse to pressure the other to sign an agreement concerning the children or money. Do not do this! It may be next to impossible to undo this agreement later on and you might regret this decision for years.