Divorce is not an uncommon issue: today, approximately one in every four families have to deal with the impact of divorce. Marriages end for several reasons, including lack of communication, financial issues, and infidelity.
Emotions have a tendency to impede rational thinking. The decision to file for divorce and the process that follows is undoubtedly difficult and emotional; however, it’s important to not let your anger, fear, and anxiety get the best of you during this time.
As with other major life-changing decisions, it is best to take your time before going through with your decision to file for your divorce. It’s essential to get an understanding of where you stand financially, and it’s recommended that you retain the services of an experienced divorce lawyer or family law attorney to protect your legal rights before, during, and after the legal process of ending your marriage, which can take up to one year on average.
Here are three important steps in the divorce process to take before you finalize your decision.
1. Find legal representation
Interview a minimum of three divorce attorneys before you decide on the one that is best for you. You may also want to consider a dissolution of marriage lawyer if fault grounds are not an issue in your situation. Also, you may need a child support or child custody lawyer if children are involved. Though it is much less expensive and easier if both parties in a divorce are able to settle without litigation, this is uncommon. Look for a divorce lawyer who understands the value of settling quickly, and who is willing to fight for and protect rights if need arises.
2. Evaluate your financial situation
Where do you and your spouse stand financially? Perhaps one of the primary objectives during the divorce process is to equally distribute marital debts and assets. In order for your divorce lawyer to ensure you receive your fair share during negotiations, it is absolutely imperative that you know and understand what is owed, and which assets are owned outright. However, marital debt is divided based on which party is more financially capable of paying it, not by whose name the debt is actually in. Obtain a copy of your credit report for good measure.
3. Collect proof of income
You’ll need documentation that shows your spouse’s income, as well as your own. Recent pay stubs are sufficient, as well as your most recent tax return. However, if your spouse is self-employed, business or bank account statements will still provide an idea of their income. Be sure to make copies for your own personal records before filing. It can be difficult to determine your spouse’s true income if they are self-employed, so it is essential to gather all the information and documentation that you can and present it to your attorney.
Most importantly, remember to take the time to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Spend time with family members and friends who can support you. It may be a good idea to see a therapist or a spiritual adviser during this time for guidance and additional support. If you have children, it is especially important to tend to their needs and concerns, as this can be an equally confusing and difficult time for them. Remember, you will get through this and go on to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.