There is so much to consider when moving forward for a dissolution. This post presumes that you have already done all the soul searching, and decision making and have decided you want a divorce.  Let’s jump right in with one of the most scary parts: money and work our way through some very common topics to help you prepare for your appointment with an attorney.

Assets: Get your financial asset documents (these are the papers the show what things you own or are buying). 

Think about houses, cars, rentals, businesses, and other obvious things.  Then there are the less obvious and even sometimes intangible assets.  Retirement and investment accounts, stocks and bonds, life insurance accounts are all necessary documents.  Do you own any copyrights, or patents or other difficult to value asset?   Gather all the statements, portfolios, appraisals, insurance plans, titles, deeds, and anything else you can find and make a copy. 

Debts!  Then locate all the documents for all your debts

If you aren’t sure about all your debts, be sure to run a credit report on yourself.  Ideally, your spouse should do the same.  Obtain all the paperwork, such as loan documents, and other supporting documents for the debts.  Make a copy.

Avoid the temptation to hide or take the only copy of all these documents.  We will talk about the “discovery” process in another blog, but thee things are discoverable by the other spouse anyway, and the longer it takes for everyone to discovery the information, then obtain the information, the longer the divorced will take.  Another way to say that: the more expensive things can get.

Budgeting and Financial Plans:

Have a talk with yourself about your budget and how you are going to make your financial ends meet during the divorce.  Have you considered how you will afford to live during the divorce?  What about after?  Do you have a pre-nuptial agreement, post-nuptial agreement, co-habitation agreement, or separation agreement which may guide what will happen in the event of a separation?  Do you have a job or an ability to earn money?  What are you trained to do?  What have you been doing for income during the marriage?  Are you disabled or have any other issue which may prevent you from earning an income sufficient to provide for you and your family?  

Perhaps you will be considering asking the other spouse to pay for those expenses, in which case be sure to make a list of all your questions to ask of any attorney you plan to hire.  This is the part of the process that can get very confusing very quickly, so the more organized your information prior to brining this to the lawyer the more efficiently a lawyer may be able to answer your questions.

Real Property: Will you be dividing Property?  

While you are gathering your financial documents, you will need to think long term about what type of property division you would like to occur.  This will be covered in greater detail at a later time.  In the beginning, it is important that you consider who should be awarded temporary use of the property(ies).  

Community Property:  Who gets all the stuff?   

When you meet with an attorney you will have the opportunity to discuss how the property and assets you may own should be categorized and your options for dividing them.  Sometimes certain assets are considered “separate property” and other times community property. This is often a topic yielding much debate and will be covered more in-depth in a later article.  

            Children: What about the kids?             If you have children of the marriage, you have the important task of making your decisions while keeping the best interest of your child(ren) in your mind and what sort of schedule would be best for them.   It is very important that you give serious thought to how you want to raise the children going forward. Have you and your spouse agreed already where the children will live?  Have you any agreements on how to tell the children that you are getting a divorce?  What steps are you going to make, or are you planning to make to keep the children out of the litigation?  Are you going to support a relationship with the other parent?  Are there any safety issues with your home or with the other parent’s home? Do these safety concerns rise to the level that there should be some limitations placed upon the time spent with that parent?

As you are evaluating the best choices for your child(ren) consider ways to address the issue of the divorce without harming the child emotionally (as much as possible).  There are many very effective resources available to parents about how to talk to children about divorce, and we recommend that neither parent involve the children in making residential decisions or in litigation process. 

            Remember that while this may be one of the most challenging times in your life, it is at least that difficult for the kids (and maybe worse!).  The children may act out while they experience stress, and parents often quickly blame the other parent for their outbursts.  It is important while in the initial stages to plan to support your child(ren) through this time.  A very important way to support your child(ren) is not to denigrate the other parent.  The child is a product of both parents, and when one parent is maligned the child may feel that they are also bad because after all, they are part of that other parent. 

            Child development, parenting plans, and other issues related to children are covered more in depth at a later date.  At this point it is necessary that you consider what is in the best interest of the children, as you consider what temporary parenting plan is in their best interest:

                        Child Support:  Who has to pay it, How do I get it?              

                     And many other questions.  Every parent has a legal obligation to financially support their children and meet their basic needs, which includes clothes, shelter, food, medical and child care.  Generally speaking, the parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time receives the child support transfer payment.  There are frequently exceptions to the child support calculation statutes.  Your attorney can provide information to you regarding your specific information.  While you are gathering documents to bring to the lawyer, the court likes to see two years tax returns and the most recent six months pay stubs or earning statements.  It is a good idea to gather this information in advance. 

            Spousal Maintenance:  Can I get that?  Do I have to pay that?  What is it?

            The Court may award spousal maintenance to either spouse, in such amounts as the court deems just.  The court makes these decisions based off certain criteria as it applies to your family’s unique situation.   The court evaluates the financial resources of the parties, and considers whether the requesting party has a need, and whether the “paying” party has the ability to pay; the impact this award could have on child support and the ability to support the child; the standard of living during the marriage, the duration of the marriage; the age, physical, emotional and financial conditions, earning ability and skills of the requesting party.    There are many factors that must be considered, and you will want to discuss your specific situation with a lawyer.

            How fast can I be divorced?

            If you and your soon to be “ex” spouse agree on everything you can enter agreed final orders when 90 days have elapsed since the date the Petition for Dissolution was served upon the other party.  If you are “in agreement” perhaps the other spouse “joined” the petition.  In which case it would be from the date it was filed. 

            Getting a divorce is not an easy process.  While you are dealing with this level of stress it will be tempting to allow your emotions to get the best of you.  Please get enough rest, exercise, and balance in your life. 

The information provided here is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be legal advise or to replaced the advise of a lawyer.  Every situation varies and every attorney has a specific approach in dealing with those issues as they apply to each client.  As always, stay calm.        

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