Seven Steps to Take Before a Divorce
- Learn About Your Legal Rights and Options
Before you file any documents with the court or you tell your spouse that you want a divorce, you may want to meet with a North Oakland Michigan family law lawyer to learn about your rights, responsibilities, and legal options related to a divorce action. An lawyer can help you formulate a plan and take the steps that give you the best chance of obtaining the outcome you desire.
Gather Information and Documentation
It is easier to gain access to information before you tell your spouse you want a divorce. Therefore, make copies of all financial documents, estate planning documents, and other important documents right now. Some of the documents that you want to copy include:
- Bank account statement and other financial account statement
- Check registers
- Retirement account statements, annuities, IRAs, and Social Security statements
- Credit card and other debt statements
- Deeds, titles to vehicles, and documents evidencing ownership of other property
- Life insurance policies
- Employee handbooks, especially information about employee benefits
- Credit reports
- Personal and business tax returns
- Self-employed or business information
- Estate planning documents, including wills, powers of lawyer, trusts, etc.
- Cell phone records
- Contents of a safe deposit box
- Take Inventory of Household Property
It may be difficult to take an inventory of each piece of property that you and your spouse own. You may want to prepare a general inventory by room, such as “living room – couch, loveseat, two chairs, three tables, 60-inch HD television, and paintings $5,500.” For expensive items, you may want to take pictures to document the item's value. If you have documentation of the value of an item, such as an appraisal, receipt, or purchase order, make a copy of the evidence to place with the picture.
- Prepare a Budget
When you and your spouse separate, you need to know exactly how much money is coming in and how much money is going out each month. Preparing a household budget is the best way to analyze the current financial status of your household. As you prepare the budget, note how much income is attributed to each spouse and if certain debts are in the name of one or both spouses. Do not forget to include debts or expenses that you or your spouse may directly pay each month that is not typically considered a “household” expense.
- Take Inventory of Your Personal Financial Situation
You need to create a budget based solely on your income and your monthly expenses. You should also look closely at your earning potential to determine if you can increase your current income. If you are unemployed, what is a realistic assessment of your ability to re-enter the workforce and earn a living to support yourself and your children? Will you need additional training or education to make you a viable employment candidate?
Examine your credit report to identify any issues that might prevent you from obtaining employment or housing. Also, begin saving money as soon as possible to build an emergency fund so that you always have access to your own money if needed.
- Focus on Your Children's Needs
Take time to focus on your children's needs and how the divorce is likely to impact their lives. Make a list of the things that will change and spend some time considering things you can do to lessen the impact of those changes. Begin developing a parenting plan that you want to see implemented, including realistic expectations of time-sharing and reasons why your plan is beneficial for your children, you, and your spouse.
- Obtain a Post Office Box
Even if you remain in the marital home, it is a good idea to forward all mail to a post office box. You do not want anyone intercepting mail from your lawyer, new credit card applications, or information from accountants, private investigators, or other professionals assisting you with your divorce proceeding.
Contact a North Oakland Michigan Family Law lawyer for HelpThere may be additional steps that you need to take to prepare for your divorce, such as developing a safety plan if there is a history of or a risk of domestic violence. You may need to meet with family and friends to develop a support group who can help you emotionally, financially, and physically when necessary.
Your situation is unique. For that reason, it is usually best to meet with a North Oakland Michigan family law lawyer as soon as you consider a divorce action. Schedule a consult with our Michigan family law lawyer today. Understanding your legal rights and your options is one of the best ways to protect your best interests and the best interests of your children.