There are many instances when divorce is the right option for both people involved. Of course, that doesn’t make the process any easier. Separating from a spouse is a major life decision requiring numerous preparations. You’ll be changing your way of life and how people perceive you, so preparing for the emotionally taxing journey ahead is important. To avoid being caught in an unfair position, divorce law experts recommend doing the following:
1. Hire a Divorce Lawyer
Before you move forward with plans for divorce, you need someone on your side. Experts recommend hiring a Divorce Lawyer so that you have someone working for your best interests. Moreover, the legal framework surrounding divorce is highly complex, so you’ll need someone experienced to help you navigate it.
In the event that you decide to go to court, an expert family attorney can represent you in situations involving the separation of assets and child custody. Most importantly, they offer relief by communicating with your spouse on your behalf. It’s natural to experience intense emotions during a divorce, but they can hinder your ability to communicate effectively. In contrast, a lawyer can approach discussions professionally.
2. Gather Important Documents
In any legal process, including divorce, you must show certain documentation. That’s why divorce attorneys recommend gathering important documents regarding your marriage and assets. Make sure that you have a copy of the following documents safely stored in a file:
- Marriage license
- Estate planning documents like prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
- Life insurance policy copies of each spouse
- You and your spouse’s pay stubs
- Information on pension accounts or retirement plans
- Credit report
- Tax returns for the last 5 years
- Titles to vehicles, both jointly and separately owned
Of course, this list only covers the essentials. If your marriage includes any other arrangements, you’ll need to provide information for that as well.
3. Separate Your Life From Your Spouse’s
A divorce means that you’re going back to living on your own. It’s best to prepare beforehand to avoid doing everything in a hurry later on. Some of the most important things to take care of include:
Open a New Bank Account
It’s common for married couples to have joint savings and checking accounts. If that’s the case, you should open a new account in your name. It allows you to maintain a record of your finances, so the account is ready to use once the judges finalize your divorce. However, state laws may require you to be officially separated before opening a new account. Therefore, it’s best to speak with your attorney about this first.
Take Out a Separate Credit Card
Although divorce doesn’t directly affect your credit, changing financial dynamics can have an impact. It’s why most lawyers recommend taking out a new credit card in your name. Make sure to know whether this is possible before the divorce is finalized. Otherwise, the court may consider it a joint account.
Get a P.O. Box
It’s likely that your divorce lawyer will send you documents during the process. To prevent your spouse from getting access, you should get a separate P.O. Box. Or, you can ask a friend if your lawyer can send mail to their address.
Seek Health Insurance Options
If your spouse’s health insurance plan currently covers you, you should start looking at new options. You can speak to your current employer about health insurance, or if you’re unemployed, look up the Affordable Care Act website.
4. List Down Your Assets
An important aspect of divorce involves deciding which spouse gets what asset. First, you need to make an inventory of the items you own, whether it’s individually or with your spouse. Make sure to write down the value of the asset, gather the necessary paperwork, and add a picture as proof. This will include the following:
- Your primary home, rental properties, and other pieces of land
- Vehicles, such as cars, motorcycles, RVs, boats, and other work vehicles
- Any heavy or light machinery, such as tractors and lawnmowers
- Household items like furniture, cookware, electronics, and bedding
- Personal items like jewelry, antiques, sports gear, safety deposit box holdings, and items of sentimental value
- Pets, livestock, and care products
You can get items appraised by a professional or do it yourself to save time.
5. Understand Your Parenting Arrangement
If you have children, you must prepare a custody plan covering when each parent will visit the children. This should include special occasions, school break schedules, and holidays. To make a better case for your custody, you’ll need to track how much time each parent spends with the children.
Remember to mention expenses you covered, missed appointments or visits, and problems in communication. Additionally, you must consider child support and whether you will receive or pay it.
6. Manage Living Arrangements
It’s common for divorcing couples to live in the same home during the process. If that’s not possible, you need to decide who will live in the marital home. Usually, the primary caretaker remains in the home to ensure stability for minor children. If you think your spouse will remain in the marital home, looking for a different place to stay is best. However, make sure to consult your family law lawyer first to avoid giving up your right to the property.
Some of the most commonly asked questions include:
How much does a divorce cost?
How much divorce costs can depend on the area, but the average cost is around $12,900, while the median is $7,500. In contrast, an uncontested divorce is less than half the average, around $4,100. Disputes over assets, alimony, or child support increase the overall cost. If you add that cost, it can go up to $23,300.
How much does a divorce lawyer cost?
Divorce lawyers charge an hourly rate in most cases. One survey from 2019 shows that they usually charge between $100 and $400 per hour. Make sure to discuss an estimate of the charges. It’s common for experienced attorneys to have a better understanding of how much their services will cost. Remember that services such as emails, calls, document reviews, and preparing settlements are billable.
How long does a divorce take?
How long the divorce process takes will depend on whether you have a contested or uncontested divorce. In the event of a contested divorce, opting for mediation or arbitration is faster and cheaper than going to court. You can expect the process to last around 12 months, from filing a petition to the final judgment. If you take it to court, it can go up to 18 months.