Embarking on the path to divorce is a significant and life-altering decision. It’s a process that involves both legal and emotional complexities, often requiring careful planning and consideration. Whether you’ve reached this decision amicably or after a difficult journey, it’s essential to approach divorce with thoughtfulness and preparation.
The following list is designed to help you navigate the crucial steps and considerations to ensure a smoother transition as you move towards officially filing for divorce. Keep in mind that divorce laws and procedures can vary by jurisdiction, so consulting with a qualified family law attorney in your area is always advisable to address your specific circumstances.
Consult with an Attorney
Schedule consultations with experienced divorce attorneys in your area to understand your rights and options. An attorney is your best source for accurate information on divorce in the state in which you will file for divorce.
Gather Financial Records
Collect financial documents such as bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, mortgage information, and investment statements. Organize these documents as best you can and keep them in a dedicated file or folio because you will need them.
Create an Inventory
Make a detailed list of your assets and liabilities, including real estate, vehicles, investments, debts, and personal property. This information will be needed so while it may be tedious to compile, it’s important that you have this information ready and accessible.
Determine Child Custody and Support
If you have children, consider what type of custody arrangement would be best for them. Estimate child support and potential spousal support (alimony) obligations. Keep in mind and prepare for the possibility that your spouse may have other ideas about what would be best for your children.
Budget and Financial Planning
Estimate a post-divorce budget that takes into account your new financial situation that doesn’t include your spouse’s income. Open a separate bank account if necessary.
Review Insurance Policies
Evaluate health, life, and property insurance policies to determine what changes are needed. If you have health insurance through a spouse’s employer, that will likely end upon divorce. If necessary, start looking into purchasing your own insurance or determine whether you can obtain coverage through your employer.
Secure Important Documents
Gather and safeguard important documents like birth certificates, passports, and social security cards.
Address Immediate Concerns
Ensure you and your children have a safe and stable living situation. Make arrangements for temporary custody if necessary.
Consider Mediation or Collaboration
Explore alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or collaborative divorce, which can be less adversarial than traditional litigation and afford you, your spouse and children a degree of privacy that doesn’t exist in divorce court, where everything is a matter of public record.
Update Beneficiaries and Wills
Review and update beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets. Consider updating your will to reflect your new circumstances.
Prepare for Emotional Support
Seek emotional support from friends, family, or a therapist. Consider joining a support group for individuals going through divorce.
Plan for Your Post-Divorce Future
Think about your long-term goals, career, and living arrangements once the divorce is finalized. This will be a new reality for you and giving these things some thought will help you to navigate your new circumstances more effectively.
Understand the Legal Process
Familiarize yourself with your state’s divorce laws, timelines, and procedures. If you have selected an attorney, ask them any questions you have about these during your consult so you will be moving forward from an informed perspective.
Discuss with Your Spouse
If possible, have an open and honest conversation with your spouse about the divorce and your intentions.
Consider the Children
Focus on minimizing the impact on your children and maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Document ALL communication with your spouse with dates and times, especially if it pertains to the divorce or child custody matters.
Stay up-to-date on any legal developments related to your case.
Plan for Legal Fees
Budget for attorney fees and other legal expenses associated with the divorce.
Maintain a well-organized file of all divorce-related documents and correspondence. During your divorce, this information should be quickly and easily accessible. If you need help keeping track of everything, consider investing in a divorce organizer.
Prepare for Change
Be mentally prepared for the emotional and lifestyle changes that come with divorce. Remember that divorce can be a complex and emotionally challenging process, so seeking professional guidance from an attorney and emotional support from friends, a therapist or support group is important. If you have children, consider that they may need support, as well.
We hope this list will be helpful. Adapt it to your specific circumstances and consult with your attorney to ensure you’re taking the necessary steps for a smooth divorce process.
Attorney O’Connor has extensive experience with divorce, collaborative divorce, divorce mediation, military divorce and associated matters such as child custody, parenting plans, child support, alimony and more. Attorney O’Connor is available to serve you in Tampa Bay, Brandon, Kissimmee, Lakeland, Plant City, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County and Osceola County.