Think it’s time to head to the courthouse to file for your divorce? After making the difficult decision to end your marriage, you may feel emotionally ready to take the next step, but before you fill out a single form, it’s prudent to make sure that you are also legally prepared for the read ahead. To help you out, here are some pointers to consider before you file:
DO: Consult with an experienced family law attorney. The laws in New Jersey that govern divorce can be a bit complex and it helps to have an expert on your side, especially if your spouse has or is planning to hire their own attorney. There may be issues in your divorce that you may have never considered, such as how to divide your pension or other retirement account. Maybe you are counting on alimony, but you are not sure if you are entitled to financial support from your spouse. Sitting down early with an attorney can help you formulate a game plan, not just for your divorce but for your future.
DON’T: File out of emotion. Anger, resentment, pain and sadness are strong feelings and completely natural to experience when a relationship is ending. However, do not let those emotions cause you to file papers without thinking it through. Emotions can lead to reckless filings and paperwork with mistakes that will have to be corrected, later on, at greater expense. And, you may rush to file based upon the adultery or other “fault” grounds for divorce which can also lead to a more expensive and stressful divorce. Take time to speak with a friend, family member or even a therapist before you race to get your divorce paperwork to the court.
DO: Look at the calendar. Timing really could be everything in your divorce and you want to make sure that you are filing at an optimal time for you. For example, we all know divorce is stressful on kids. Maybe waiting for a calmer time of year to file will help them go through the process more smoothly. Avoid the start of a school year or the holidays if that can add stress to the already difficult situation. Financially, you may want to wait until your spouse’s year end bonus comes through, so that it is available for distribution right away in the divorce. Again, sit down with your attorney to come up with a strategy. If you need financial guidance, talk with your accountant.
DO: Learn all you can about child custody and your rights as a parent. Courts strongly favor both parents being as involved in children’s lives to the greatest extent possible, and believe that this constant involvement is in their best interests. So, if you can realistically share physical custody of your children, where you have them half the time in your home, go for it. Just be sure that whatever you are looking for in terms of custody really is realistic. Being out of the house for your job 70 hours a week is probably not going to render you available for sole custody under normal circumstances. Think of your children’s best interests, always.
DON’T: Refuse to negotiate. Courts strongly encourage couples to negotiate and come up with their own settlements and they will give both of you the opportunity to settle many times during your divorce case. It’s in your best interests to check your emotions at the door and abandon an “all or nothing” approach to your divorce. Judges do not look kindly upon spouses who refuse to bend and pursuing this strategy will get you to a long and expensive trial. If you need assistance, consider mediation, where a trained mediator will work to help the both of you come up with a settlement that you can live with.
Good planning is key to a successful start to divorce. What questions do you have about the filing process and road ahead? Schedule an initial consultation with one of our skilled family law attorneys. Let us help you strategize your “must haves” and your “negotiables” in your divorce, and take steps to protect your rights to your kids. Call us today at 888-888-0919 or click the contact button below.