You took down the tree, packed up the decorations and ornaments and made the last trip to the mall for returns. Things with your spouse have been on rocky ground for a while but you wanted to buck up for the kids and get through the holidays before taking the plunge and filing for divorce. You have now decided you want to end your marriage. You should consider the following:
- Assets/Liabilities: Make a list of your and your spouse’s assets and debts and what you believe the assets/debts are worth. This should include all assets and liabilities, regardless of whose name the house, bank account or credit card is titled in. To the extent you have account statements or other documents to show the values, gather those together.
- Income: Know your spouse’s income as well as your income and/or earning capacity. If you have been out of the paid workforce for a period of time, consider what education or training will be needed in order to reenter the work force and what the cost will be. Consider talking to a career counselor.
- Copy, Copy, Copy: Copy all financial information you can get your hands on, including bank statements, retirement account statements, deeds, mortgage statements, credit card statements, tax returns and all the schedules, W-2s, paystubs, etc. Try to get the statements going back three years.
- Expenses: Put together a budget so you can determine what it costs to maintain and live in the property you currently live in as this may help you decide whether it is realistic for you to remain in your current residence or seek replacement housing which you may better afford. You should also include your living expenses, such as food, clothing, entertainment, vacations, medical expenses, etc.
- Be a photographer: Take photographs or a video (with a date stamp) of all artwork, jewelry and other valuable personal property. Often those items tend to “disappear” after a divorce action has been filed. You will then have a time stamped record of what existed.
- Safe Deposit Box: Inventory the contents of any safe deposit box.
- Talk to your spouse: To the extent you can, you should try to have a conversation with your spouse in advance to let him or her know that you want a divorce so they are not blindsided. In same cases this is not possible, or practical, especially if there is history or a fear of abuse or violence as a result.
- Talk to your children: If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, pick a time with your spouse to tell your children together of your plans. Stress that the divorce has nothing to do with them and that you both love them. Don’t put your children in the middle of the divorce and don’t discuss the divorce process with your children. You may want to consider seeking professional advice from a therapist as to the best way to communicate your decision to divorce to your children.
Making the decision to divorce is never an easy one but starting off on the right foot by taking these steps can make things a little bit easier.