Every couple faces challenges that can put their marriage to the test. Financial pressures, balancing busy careers and family obligations, and communication issues can cause even the most seemingly stable marriages to fall apart. Divorce has a major impact on all aspects of your life, so the more prepared you are as you begin to navigate the divorce process, the more successful and positive the outcome is likely to be for all parties involved. A dedicated divorce lawyer will address all your questions and concerns and ensure that you reach a favorable divorce settlement.
What Steps Should I Take Before Filing for Divorce?
Once you have made the decision to end your marriage, you may be unsure about how to proceed, and what to do next. In order to reach the best possible outcome, and protect your emotional and financial interests, there are proactive steps you should take to prepare for a divorce, including the following:
- Organize your finances. This should be one of the first steps you take once you have decided to proceed with a divorce. The main purpose of a divorce – besides the legal termination of the marriage – is the equitable distribution of marital assets and debts. It is important that you have a clear picture of all your marital assets, including your home, vehicles, financial accounts, pension plans, retirement accounts and inheritances, as well as any major debt that you owe and whose name the debts are in. Obtain copies of important financial documents like past tax returns, bank statements, investment statements, retirement account statements, life insurance policies, mortgage statements, family trusts, and Social Security statements.
- Collect important legal documents. Collect copies of insurance policies, your will and powers of attorney, tax returns and registrations, receipts, and payroll information if you and your spouse own your own business.
- Update your will. Assuming your spouse is named as the beneficiary in your will, you will need to remove your spouse’s name from the will and update it so that your money and other financial assets go to your children.
- Set aside three months of financial resources. If your spouse is the main breadwinner of the family, take proactive steps to ensure that you have enough money to cover your expenses for at least three months. It is not uncommon for a spouse to become angry, spiteful, or jealous, and take steps to cut you off financially. While your divorce lawyer will negotiate the best possible financial settlement, this is a time-consuming process, so it is in your best interest to have enough money saved so that you can pay your bills and general expenses until a divorce agreement is reached.
- Close joint financial accounts. Oftentimes, a spouse may go on a spending spree or freeze accounts in an effort to prevent the other spouse from accessing the account. Even if you do not think that your spouse will resort to this kind of malicious and conniving behavior, it is in your best interest to open an account that is in your name only, withdraw half of the funds that are in your joint account and deposit that into your new account. If you are concerned that your spouse may tamper with savings accounts, money market accounts or any other type of investment accounts, it is highly recommended that you have those accounts frozen.
- Contact creditors. Alert creditors that you are going through a divorce. If you are responsible for making the monthly payments, and you have moved out of the house, make sure that the creditors have your current address. If you do not get a copy of a bill because it was sent to your previous address, you could fall behind on your payments. If an unpaid bill is forwarded to a collection agency, this can have a negative impact on your credit.
- Determine a post-divorce budget. You will need to figure out what your monthly expenses are going to be once you are divorced. It is important that you do not underestimate your expenses when you begin settlement negotiations. Go through all your expenses with a fine-tooth comb so that you reach the settlement you deserve.
- Do not move out right away. Unless you are in an abusive relationship and your health and safety are at risk, it is recommended that you hold off on moving out until the divorce proceedings are finalized. If you decide to move out, and your spouse continues to pay the mortgage while your case is pending, this could impact your settlement if a judge factors the mortgage payments into the decision.
- Find a place to live. While moving out too soon can negatively impact your case, you should figure out what you can afford, whether you are going to buy or rent, if the new place has plenty of room for the children and is close to their schools. If you or your children are in an abusive situation at home, get out immediately and stay with friends or family until you can find a suitable home.
- Maintain a civil relationship with your spouse. If the divorce is amicable enough to be around one another, treat each other with respect and avoid arguing or behaving in a way that creates a stressful situation for your children, and other friends and family.
- Create a support system. You do not need to go through this difficult time alone. While you can certainly rely on family, and spend time with your children, you should surround yourself with a solid group of friends who have your back and can support you through every phase of the divorce. Whether that means taking you out for dinner and drinks or providing a shoulder to cry on, having a group of ride-or-die friends in your corner will help you feel loved and supported.
- Hire an experienced divorce lawyer. While some couples are able to reach a divorce agreement without legal representation, that is not always possible, particularly if you and your spouse have significant marital assets that need to be divided, or you are unable to resolve your issues. Having a skilled divorce lawyer on your side will ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you reach a fair settlement.
Whitehouse Station Divorce Lawyers at Tune Law Group, LLC Help Clients Prepare for a Divorce
If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, do not hesitate to contact the Whitehouse Station divorce lawyers at Tune Law Group, LLC. We will assist you with every step of the divorce process and ensure that you are prepared to take the next steps. Our dedicated legal team will negotiate the best possible settlement offer. To schedule a consultation, call us at 908-434-1061 or contact us online. Located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Hunterdon County, Monmouth County, and Tewksbury.