It is time for a divorce, but with so many critical decisions looming on the horizon, you can feel more than a little daunted. Your kids, your assets, and your future…are you ready for the road ahead? With so much at stake, here is a 5-step action plan to help you begin the divorce process feeling ready, willing, and able to take on these big life issues.
Take charge of your finances. This step is especially important if your spouse has traditionally handled the family’s finances. Many people don’t know how much their family spends every month or how much they have in savings, retirement, or investment portfolios. If this is the case for you, you must become financially literate before you file for divorce. Our free financial checklist PDF lists the documents and statements you can gather to get an accurate picture of your finances. If needed, consider consulting with a certified financial planner to help you come up with a monthly budget, set up separate bank accounts and credit cards, and devise a retirement plan.
Identify and consult with a qualified 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. Speaking to a 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 — as well as general “get to know you” questions. Ones to put on your list include:
– What are my best and worst-case outcomes?
– How much spousal/child support can I expect to pay or receive?
– Do I have to pay taxes on the spousal and child support that I receive?
– Who claims the kids as dependent exemptions on their taxes?
– What do I need to do to get the custody plan I want?
– What is the legal process from filing to settlement?
– What is the difference between mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation?
– What is you retainer and hourly fee?
– What happens if my spouse and I both want to stay in the family home?
– What percentage of your cases is resolved out of court?
– How do we determine the division of assets?
Don’t act out of anger. 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.
Be sure you are psychologically ready for divorce. Divorce means trading the devil you know for the devil you don’t know. Be sure you’ve done everything you can to make your marriage work before you file. Have you gone to individual and/or couples therapy? Worked on your personal growth to be the best partner you can be – despite what your spouse does? Do whatever it takes to make sure you’re really done and ready to move on.
Get ready to co-parent: If you have kids, you 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’t 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.