Going through a divorce is a life-changing event with emotional, social and legal impact on both the couple and other family members. Given the seriousness of the undertaking, it is useful to create a road map for steps to take in preparation of the process.

If you have already determined that your marriage is unsalvageable, you’ll want to ensure you have a robust support network in place. That includes relatives and friends who will offer you emotional support and an attorney who can provide the quality legal advice and expertise you need.

Before meeting with an attorney, you should take stock of your life goals and how they will impact the divorce proceedings. Some of the questions to ask yourself include:

  • Where will you live and will your children be living with you?
  • What will you need to ensure your and your children’s financial needs are met?
  • What type of emotional support will you and your children need from family and friends, and possibly from a professional therapist?
  • What assets might you need to replace or rebuild after you and your former spouse divide the marital property?
  • What spending changes will you need to take so that your new financial situation is manageable and can support you in the long term?

If you and your spouse agree on all key issues of the divorce, you can proceed with an “uncontested divorce.” The financial issues you will need to ensure are covered in the agreement include: the division of your marital assets and debts, and the determination of the amount of any spousal or child support payments and the duration of the payments. If there are children involved, the agreement should also include a determination of which parent has what custody and what the timesharing arrangements will be for each parent. The marriage will not be officially over until a family court judge has reviewed, approved and filed the written Divorce Decree.

If you do elect to proceed with an attorney, prior to meeting with them, gather a list of questions; and any relevant legal documents, such as an adoption decree, paternity orders, or a marital agreement, such as a prenuptial or separation agreement.

As financial considerations are among the most pressing of any divorce settlement, you will also want to gather all financial records. Any prior legal agreements, as mentioned above, will supersede all financial negotiations.

The financial documents will likely include:

  • Your last few pay statements
  • Any account statements for pensions you receive or will receive
  • Current account statements from banks, benefits, mutual funds, retirement and security accounts
  • Real property ownership documents and appraisals
  • Current business ownership documents and profit and loss statements
  • Current account statements for any existing debts such as mortgages, lines of credit, car loans, student loans or credit cards
  • Life insurance policies, especially if there is a tax value in the policy
  • Recently filed tax returns
  • Any large upcoming financial obligations such as tuition fees or medical bills
  • Statements or other documents showing assets you owned at the date of marriage
  • Documents showing any gift or inheritance received by you during the marriage

Whatever your goals for your divorce settlement, Seth Harris, senior associate of the PMK family law division, can provide an experienced, compassionate counsel and guide you through the divorce process, while keeping it as simple and understandable as possible.