No one wakes up one day and says, “I want a divorce.” Thinking of divorce is usually something that has been going on for months, even years.
Thinking of divorce involves weighing countless pros and cons, trying to imagine your future both ways, considering children, and really tapping into your gut and your heart.
Even if someone decides to pursue a divorce, that person might go back and forth 10 times before actually bringing it up to their spouse. And then, the spouse might convince them to try again. The couple might go back and forth for months or years before they decide to work things out or split for good. I’ve seen couples go in both directions so there is no right or wrong answers.
All that said, if you are thinking about divorce, there are certain steps you might want to take to prepare. They might seem dishonest and sneaky, but, I don’t see it that way at all. Preparing is smart, practical, and could save you a lot of time and money in the future. Preparing also helps you weigh everything involved in a divorce, which then helps you in your decision of whether or not to divorce.
Jennifer Dillon Kotz is a divorce attorney and partner at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck. I recently had a conversation with Kotz, who has been with the firm for 17 years, and asked her advice on what specific steps people thinking about divorce might want to take. Here is what she offered:
7 tips for people thinking about divorce:
- Make copies of federal and state income tax returns from the past five years. Those documents will show income, which is much needed info for your attorney.
- If you don’t have a credit card in your name, open one up in case of an emergency.
- Establish online access to your joint bank accounts and check the account regularly for any unusual activity, which could include excessive spending or withdrawals
- If you have a safety deposit box, photograph and inventory the contents.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report to see if you have any liabilities (including unpaid medical bills) you might be unaware of.
- Obtain a copy of your will and powers of attorney. Again this something that will help your divorce attorney and will need to be changed.
- Go for a consultation with a divorce attorney even if you are still unsure if you want a divorce. Knowledge is power and to be educated will help you weigh the pros and cons and influence your decision.
These are all smart, but I can’t resist adding a few tips of my own:
- Keep a private journal. I believe that when you write things down it helps make things more clear. If you look back and read what you wrote, it helps solidify your decision. The memory has a way of blocking out red flags, but it’s hard to ignore it in print.
- Talk to a therapist. An unbiased professional who doesn’t know you isn’t going to say, “You need to leave him, he’s an *sshole,” like your girlfriend will. The therapist will be objective and help you draw your own conclusions.
- Try to imagine your future. Then ask yourself if you think you and your partner could make changes to get to a good one. In other words, is it fixable? Trying to reignite a spark is more doable than trying to get someone to break an addiction he or she doesn’t think they have.
- Forget fear. Getting divorced is scary and so is staying in a marriage that isn’t working. So, don’t make decisions based on fear. In other words, don’t stay or go because of fear. Do either one based on what YOU think is the better choice. Either one will be scary.
Jennifer Dillon Kotz is a partner at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP who has been litigating family law cases for 17 years. Also certified in collaborative law, Kotz has received recognition in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Illinois Super Lawyers Magazine, and Crain’s Chicago Business. Kotz is a graduate of Loyola University School of Law and has lectured on family law topics for the IICLE, the Chicago Bar Association, and the DePaul Law Society. Learn more: www.sdflaw.com/attorneys/jkotz/