Decided to divorce? It’s time to come to grips with the fact that the process you’re about to embark upon will require you to make critical decisions affecting your life, your children’s lives, and the shape of your future. With so much at stake, our 5-step action plan can help you begin the divorce process feeling ready, willing, and able to move through divorce with greater clarity. Here’s how to take control of your divorce — and stay in control.
Take charge of your finances
Has your spouse traditionally handled the family’s finances? You may be in the dark about how much your family spends every month to sustain your lifestyle or how much you have in savings, retirement, or investment portfolios. Having this information is critical in divorce for everything from asset division to alimony and child support. To start getting a handle on your marital finances, use our free financial checklist PDF for a list of the documents and statements you can gather to start forming a picture of your finances. Run a credit report to help you identify joint accounts (that you may or may not know about). Tip: Gathering this information before you meet with an attorney can help your first meeting become instantly more productive as you have some real financial figures to discuss.
Consult with a family law attorney
It’s imperative that you educate yourself about the divorce process, and one the easiest ways to do this is by setting up an initial consultation with a family law attorney. Why family law? This is the branch of New Jersey law that specifically applies to divorce and all related issues, including child custody. Consulting with an attorneys means that you will get answers and guidance from a legal professional immersed in these issues all day, every day. Your meeting with your attorney is a time for you to explore your rights, your options, and your goals. It’s also an “interview” with an attorney who will guide you throughout your divorce.
To help you stay focused during your meeting, bring a list of questions with you that pertain to your situation. Ones to put on your list can include:
- What’s a reasonable custody plan in my situation?
- How much alimony and/or child support can I expect to pay or receive?
- Should I stay put or move out of the family home?
- Can I keep the family home in the divorce?
- We own a family business/other assets. What are my best options for dividing?
- Can I avoid going to court in my divorce? What are my best options for doing so?
The answers to these questions will help you start formulating goals in your divorce and a strategy for reaching them.
Get in the right mindset
The manner in which you tell your spouse that you want a divorce, and the manner in which you behave afterwards, will have a huge effect on the divorce process as well as your co-parenting relationship. You can’t control your spouse’s reaction, but if you give in to inner rage during the divorce process, you will increase the odds that your divorce will turn nasty. Do your best to be businesslike and treat your spouse with basic civility even if you loathe your partner. If you can’t, or don’t feel safe, communication with your ex, your attorney can be in charge of communication on divorce-related matters. Taking the high road is especially important if you have kids. It’s much easier to sustain an amicable co-parenting relationship if you start off on a good note, rather than starting off badly and trying to fix things later.
Prioritize your emotional health (and your children’s too!)
A divorce therapist can be an important part of your divorce team (which includes your lawyer and other supporting players such as your accountant, divorce coach, etc.). By processing your emotions in therapy, you will have better coping skills to deal with divorce stress and tense moments. Did your spouse cheat on you? Working through this betrayal outside the courtroom can keep the hurt and anger you feel from dragging down the divorce process. Children can benefit greatly from therapy and having a neutral space to discuss their own experiences during this time.
Prep for co-parenting and custody negotiations
Have you considered what kind of child custody plan and parenting time schedule will work best for your children? One helpful step you can take to start working on this important piece of your divorce is to gather a blank calendar for the year ahead, copies of your children’s school calendars, schedules of extracurricular activities, and the work schedules of you and your ex. Start to pencil in a schedule for shared custody (the case for most parents) and see what you can do to create a fair and child-first calendar for the year. It can make the process of deciding custody that much smoother when you have a draft plan to start negotiations .
Also, when you have kids, you need to embrace that you and your ex will never be truly removed from each other’s lives. Unless your spouse goes MIA, you will have to maintain an active co-parenting relationship until your kids graduate high school or college. You will have to see your ex and possibly his or her new partner at future family events. Getting divorced will not remove your spouse from your life. As you make the move to split up, consider that you may, in fact, be in touch with your spouse MORE than ever because you need to communicate about your kids and their needs on a regular basis. Take a deep breath and learn the steps to being a great co-parent. [And we suggest sharing this article with your ex because it really takes both co-parents working together to get this new family arrangement off to a strong start.]
Your goal in divorce is securing your future so you can move on with your life. Enter the divorce process only when you are ready to take the steps required to accomplish this. The golden rules to follow? Don’s rush, do your homework, and don’t let emotion overwhelm reason.
Are you gearing up for divorce and want feedback from a family law attorney on what you can expect, and what your options are? We can help. Please contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below.
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