When you got married, you probably expected your relationship to last for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, relationships can break down for a variety of reasons. You may have found that you and your spouse disagree about how to manage your finances, how your children will be raised, or any number of other issues, leading to ongoing arguments and conflicts that have become impossible to resolve. Your decision to pursue a divorce may be based on specific problems in your marriage, such as infidelity, or you and your spouse may simply have grown apart and are no longer happy in your relationship.
Regardless of the reason why your marriage is coming to an end, you will want to make sure to take the right steps as you proceed with the divorce process. Your first priority should be to hire a divorce attorney. A skilled and experienced divorce lawyer can help you understand the legal issues involved in your divorce, and they can provide you with representation to help you achieve an outcome that will allow you to move on successfully once the divorce process is complete.
Getting Ready for Divorce
Before you begin the divorce process, it is a good idea to sit down and think through your plans. By considering what you want your life to look like once your marriage has ended, you can set achievable goals and begin taking steps toward making the changes that will come with your divorce.
Some of the issues that you will want to consider include your finances and your living situation. Do you earn enough income to be able to support yourself, or do you rely on your spouse’s income to meet your family’s needs? Will you be moving to a new residence, or do you expect to continue living in your family’s home? By understanding the income you earn and the regular expenses that you will need to cover, you will be able to make realistic plans and create a budget that will allow you to live comfortably. By doing so, you can also determine whether you can ask for your spouse to pay you financial support or whether you may be required to pay spousal support.
If you and your spouse have children together, you will also need to address how the two of you will share in the responsibility of raising them, and you will need to determine where they will live most of the time. Do you expect to have primary custody of your children, or will you and your spouse share custody? Will you be able to work out an arrangement in which your children live primarily at one parent’s home, or will they spend equal amounts of time with each parent? Even if you are not able to discuss these issues with your spouse, you can think about how you believe these issues should be handled, and you can prepare to address them during the divorce process.
Once you have a good understanding of your goals for your divorce, you can start making more concrete plans for the divorce process by obtaining all the necessary information about your finances and property. Since all of the assets and debts you and your spouse own will need to be divided between the two of you, gaining a full understanding of your family’s finances can ensure that these matters are handled correctly.
The financial information you will need to gather includes anything that describes what you earn, what you own, and what you owe. All sources of income for you and your spouse should be considered, and you will want to make a full accounting of all of the marital property that you own together, as well as any non-marital property owned by either spouse. Finally, you will need to gather all applicable information about any debts that you owe, including credit cards, home mortgages, or auto loans.
While you may not be able to access all of the information needed, gathering as much information as possible before beginning the divorce process can help you prepare to address the issues that you will need to resolve. Understanding the monetary value of your assets can ensure that you will be able to divide this property fairly, and knowing the amount of income you and your spouse earn can help you prepare to address issues such as child support or spousal maintenance.
In addition to financial information, you may also want to begin compiling information that may be necessary when addressing child custody issues. If you expect to have primary custody of your children, you may want to obtain their medical records or school records to show that you have played an important role in making decisions about how they have been raised. You may also wish to make notes showing when you provide care for your children or participate in their activities, while recording any other information that shows that you are closely involved in their lives.
Filing for Divorce
Once you are fully ready to go ahead with your divorce, you can begin the process of dissolving your marriage by filing a petition for divorce in court. Depending on the state where you live, your petition may state the grounds for divorce, or the reason(s) you wish to end your marriage. While some states allow fault-based grounds for divorce, such as infidelity or abandonment, most states allow for “no-fault” divorce. In these cases, your divorce petition will simply state that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences that have caused your marriage to break down beyond repair.
Your divorce petition will also include requests for temporary relief in which you will ask for decisions to be made about how certain matters will be handled during the divorce process. For example, you may request that you have exclusive use of your marital home, that your children will live primarily with you, or that your spouse pay you child support or spousal support. After your spouse has filed a response to your divorce petition, the judge in your case may grant some or all of your requests, depending on what they believe is the appropriate way to handle these matters while your divorce is pending.
By considering all of these issues and taking steps to file your divorce petition properly, you can be better prepared to move forward with the process of ending your marriage. Working with a skilled family law attorney will ensure that you have considered all of the legal and financial aspects of your divorce, and your divorce lawyer can advocate for your interests and help achieve your goals as you prepare to move on to the next stage of your life.