Divorce can be one of life’s most difficult experiences both emotionally and legally. But if you’re proactive in organizing the logistics of the divorce before it begins, it helps to streamline the legal process and allows you to focus more attention on the emotional process of separating your family. By taking 10 important steps before filing for divorce, you can minimize the distress in a stressful process and end up feeling more like you have control of the process rather than the process controlling you.
1. Be Forthright With Your Spouse and Children Whenever Possible
Experts find that it helps to ensure children feel safe and secure if you approach the divorce process openly without keeping them in the dark. Instead, ensure that your children understand that you will all remain a family, even after the divorce, and that they are not responsible for the separation in any way.
It’s also important to get your spouse on board with communicating and compromising throughout the process whenever possible to avoid unnecessary contention. The only exception to being forthright with a spouse is if you’ve been a victim of domestic abuse, in which case you may need to make arrangements to ensure your safety before informing your spouse of your plans.
2. Find a California Divorce Attorney to Represent You
Most people recommend interviewing two or three attorneys before choosing the one who will best represent your interests throughout the process. Ask for client testimonials, find out the details of costs and fees, and ensure that there will be open lines of communication throughout the process before making a decision on which San Francisco family law attorney is best.
3. Consult With a Financial Expert If You Have Many Diverse Assets
High-asset divorces or divorces involving complex financial situations, business ownership, or large debts can become complicated and stressful to untangle. A divorce attorney alone may not have the financial know-how to best represent all of your interests in a complicated financial situation. By hiring a financial expert with experience in navigating California divorce law, you can better protect your interests.
4. Learn About California’s Community Property Divorce Laws
Before filing for divorce, it helps to gain an understanding of community property vs. separate property under the state’s divorce laws. In California, all community property is subject to 50/50 division. Separate property is any asset belonging solely to one spouse before the marriage or inherited or given to them as a gift during the marriage. Community property is all assets, property, and debts accumulated during the marriage. Discerning separate property can be challenging since spouses commonly comingle their assets during the marriage, making them marital property.
5. Gather Financial Records
Trying to find all relevant financial records once the divorce is already in progress can intensify the stress. Instead, getting financial records in order preemptively helps to expedite and streamline the process.
6. Obtain Proof of Income
Be sure you have several recent pay stubs, statements from your employer, tax forms, or direct deposit records to show all of your monthly income.
7. Establish Credit in Your Name
As soon as you separate from your spouse, any accounts you open become your separate property. It’s an important step to open your own checking and savings accounts and apply for a credit card in your name only to establish an independent line of credit. Don’t try to transfer any funds from marital accounts into your new account.
8. Consider Child Custody
If you have children, it’s helpful to begin a journal chronicling your daily routine with your children. This can work on your behalf in determining custody by showing your involvement in your children’s lives and their care as well as your ability to meet their physical and emotional needs.
9. Find New Living Arrangements or Make a Plan to Retain the Family Home
Once you know that divorce is inevitable, it means that one or both of you must make new living arrangements. It helps to find a new place before filing for divorce or to begin making a plan with your lawyer to ensure that you can retain the family home by buying out your spouse’s share or trading something of equal value from the marital asset pool.
10. Build an Emotional Support Network
The financial aspects of a divorce are only one part of the distress associated with the process of separating from a spouse. It’s important to carefully build a strong network of emotional support during the process. This should include time allotted for self-care, and depending on the support of close friends, family, and a therapist whenever possible.