Divorce is scary, and even scarier if you are not prepared for it. There are many decisions that you will have to make in the upcoming days, weeks and months during the divorce process, and when you don’t even know where to start, even the smallest decisions may seem daunting. Having been a divorce attorney for 11 years, I can tell you that the best way to ease fear and anxiety during divorce is to make sure you are armed with the information and tools needed along the way. So, here is your divorce preparation checklist; 5 things to do to prepare for your divorce.
Your Divorce Preparation Checklist: 5 Things to do to Prepare
1. Decide Which Divorce Process You will be Using.
There are a few different ways to get divorced. These include: litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, and the do-it-yourself approach. During my initial consultation with clients, I ask questions and listen to your specific situation in order to help you make the decision on which process is best for you. Here are the divorce processes:
A. Litigation: The traditional approach that most people think of when they consider a Divorce is a contested litigated divorce where a Judge makes all the decisions for you. While this approach may be necessary in cases where there are significant issues such as domestic violence, litigation has its disadvantages, including increased conflict between the spouses, no input in your post-divorce life—parenting plan and finances, and a lengthy, expensive process.
B. Mediation: Mediation is a private and confidential way to resolve your divorce case. You and your Spouse can hire a neutral party (a mediator or divorce lawyer who specializes in mediation) to assist you in coming to a resolution on all the issues in your Divorce. You and your spouse may choose to mediate either with or without attorneys.
C. Collaborative Divorce: This is also a private and confidential process where each spouse has their own collaboratively trained attorney to guide them through the Divorce process. Both attorneys and the spouses sign an agreement to keep the case out of court. With a collaborative case, a Financial Neutral and a Divorce Coach or Parenting Coordinator may also be added to the team to assist the family in making the right decisions concerning finances and/or parenting decisions and to aid in coparenting.
D. Kitchen Table or Do It Yourself Approach: Some spouses decide that they do not want professional help in the process. They are concerned about the costs and about ending up in Court. They might also feel like the divorce is amicable enough to sort out parenting and finances without the help of divorce professionals. While this approach may save some money in the short term, it may have the couple making costly mistakes in the Long Term.
2. Get Educated and empowered:
The second item on your divorce preparation checklist is to become educated and empowered. Many people listen to the horror stories of friends or relatives, or hear about how simple a divorce was from another friend or relative. Remember this: No two families are the same, therefore the facts may not apply to your situation.
There are often Free Workshops about Divorce or books that are available to educate you on divorce processes, laws and more. You want to make sure that you are reading materials that are relevant to the state that you are in if you have questions on legal terms in a divorce. Each state has their own laws on property, support and custody so when you Google a Question you may not get the answer that pertains to your state. You may also want to seek the advice of an attorney prior to filing for Divorce so that that he/she can assist you in choosing the right process and what you can expect based on the facts of your case.
3. Get Organized.
In most states you will be required to disclose all of your assets and your liabilities, as well as all of your income and expenses in the process. You will want to make sure that you gather all the statements that you can find that are close to the date of separation, or the date that you and your spouse made the decision to divorce. In states that are community property states, each spouse is entitled to one half of all the property that was acquired during the marriage. You will also want to get your income tax returns for the last several years and current paystubs as those may be needed to determine whether or not spousal support or child support will be paid.
Make a budget of what your current household expenses are and what the new expenses of your household will be after you or your spouse moves out of the home. You also want to put together a list of your children’s expenses so that you are able to have discussions with your spouse on how those expenses will be handled after you and your spouse are in separate households. All of this isn’t easy to do, so just do the best you can. You can also consult with a financial planner who specializes in divorce to determine different scenarios on things like going back to work or continuing to stay home, selling your home versus keeping it, and saving and spending.
4. Get Emotional Support.
Working with a Therapist and/or a Divorce Coach can minimize the amount of fees that you spend in working with your attorney or mediator. These professionals can support you with the emotional impacts of divorce, and help get you in a place where you are able to make sound legal and financial decisions rather than emotional decisions.
When people act on emotion, they often regret those decisions later once they have had time to heal. Consider finding a support group with other people who are in the Divorce Process so that you have new connections and friendships outside of your marriage. When we attempt to bring joint friends in the middle of a divorce, it often makes them uncomfortable and then we begin to feel more isolated. Find safe outlets for your emotions. Some people choose to take up a new hobby and create a support system there.
5. Build Your Post Divorce Routine.
If you are parent, you might be sharing custody with your former spouse, or you might be gaining sole custody. Regardless of custody status, find new activities and routines with your children on the times that you have them, and create new adventures for yourself on the times that you do not have the children.
Try to find a new way to communicate with your former spouse about the children’s activities and day to day life. Often a coparenting app, such as Talking Parents, with a shared calendar can assist you and your spouse in keeping the schedules and knowing when events such as doctor’s appointments, recitals, sports events or school conferences are occurring. As you heal and get into the new routine, these tools will assist you, and help keep all communication professional and about the kids. Remember that there can still be a lot of resentment and anger when a divorce is fresh. Hopefully, those feelings fade with time.
In closing, completing all the items on this divorce preparation checklist will make your divorce less stressful and a lot more organized. Divorce is hard, but remember that the Divorce Process is TEMPORARY! You will get through this and will come out on the other side to a new, wonderful life. When you are educated and informed throughout the process, you will be able to make the right decisions for you and for your children. Become excited for the new life that you will have once the process has ended because your book is not closed. The chapter has merely ended and YOU get to write the next one. I am here if you have any questions or would like a consultation about your divorce.
Family Law Attorney, Patricia C. Van Haren has been a practicing attorney since 2011. Prior to attending law school, Patricia was a family law paralegal for approximately 20 years. In that time she acted as a Paralegal for several attorneys. For several years before becoming an attorney, she assisted couples through uncontested divorces as a paralegal and document preparation assistance. After establishing her own practice, she used all of her skills and knowledge to develop her family law, estate planning and wealth management practice.
Ms. Van Haren raised her three children as a single mother while working and attending law school at nights and on weekends. As a single parent and a person who has gone through a Divorce in her past, Ms. Van Haren understands how the divorce process can impact the future of the family. Ms. Van Haren believes that where possible issues can be settled outside of the Courtroom even in the most contentious cases. She works with her clients to advocate for them and to be able to strategize and choose which issues are appropriate for litigation and which issues are appropriate for settlement. Ms. Van Haren handles divorces, paternity and custody matters, guardianship, and conservatorship matters through mediation and collaborative law. She has offices in Torrance and Irvine and handles cases throughout Southern, Central Los Angeles County and all of Orange County. To learn more, visit her website.
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