Divorces are never fun, but they can be much smoother if you spend adequate time preparing for the process. While undergoing a divorce, your financial future will be at stake; the course of the divorce will decide not only how current assets are split, but how alimony and child support are paid. You'll also be negotiating child custody (if you have children).
Accordingly, preparation for a divorce is vital if you want to walk away in the best possible position.
How to Prepare for a Divorce
These are some of the best steps you can take to prepare for a divorce:
Contact a divorce attorney. Even if you're not 100 percent certain you want a divorce, it's a good idea to contact a divorce attorney. Most lawyers will be more than happy to hear about your case and provide you with preliminary details before you pay a cent. Divorces can be legally complicated, and can easily become more difficult if handled improperly; a lawyer will be able to advise you throughout the process so you take the proper steps and precautions. Accordingly, the earlier you reach out to a lawyer, the better.
Remain quiet. If you're early in the divorce process, it's best to remain quiet about your intentions. Announcing to your spouse that you intend to divorce them will give them more time to hire an attorney and prepare a strategy, and may incentivize them to hide assets or otherwise prevent you from getting what you deserve. Similarly, avoid talking about your divorce with other people in your social circle or making public announcements.
Make a list of assets. Next, put together a list of assets and debts, including both shared items and individual items. These include things like bank accounts, credit cards, homes, vehicles, and investment accounts. Make sure to obtain official copies of the balances of these items if you can, and be as comprehensive as possible.
Consider your goals. What are you hoping to get out of this divorce? Your lawyer will work with you to put together a list of reasonable demands, but before that happens, it pays to contemplate your personal objectives. Are you hoping for full custody of the children? Is there a specific division of assets that would make you satisfied? Are there specific outcomes you're hoping to avoid? There's a lot to think about here, but sorting out your personal feelings and objectives early can help make the process much smoother later on.
Save texts, voicemails, and other evidence. If you're currently having difficulties with your spouse, it's a good idea to save copies of texts, voicemails, emails, and other personal interactions. In some cases, it may even be wise to record your conversations (especially if your lawyer advises it). These personal communications can be used as evidence to show that your spouse is abusive, or to demonstrate the nature of your relationship. You may also be able to use these to show that your spouse is not fit to obtain full custody, or that you've agreed to certain things in the upcoming split.
Set up a PO Box. If you're trying to keep the divorce as quiet as possible, you should set up a PO Box with the USPS. Setting up a PO Box is easy, and provides you with a convenient location where you can receive incoming mail. This is especially important if you currently share a residence with your spouse and you're worried about them finding out about your contact with a lawyer.
Get copies of legal documents. For your divorce to be finalized, you'll need to provide copies of important legal documents, including your marriage license and several forms of personal identification, including your birth certificate, driver's license, and social security card. Obtain copies of these documents early and keep them in a secure location; this way, they'll be ready for you whenever you need them.
Get ready to move. If you currently share a location with your spouse, it's a good idea to move as soon as possible. Living with a partner during a divorce can be stressful, and in some cases, downright dangerous. Consider getting an apartment, or contacting friends and family in the area to see if you can stay with them.
Taking Your Lawyer's Advice
One of the most important first steps you can take is talking to a lawyer. Once you've established contact, your lawyer can provide you with advice and direction on what to do next. Take this advisement seriously, and do whatever it takes to get yourself in a better financial, legal, and personal position. Your divorce will be much smoother and much more in your favor if you do this.