What to consider before filing for divorce?

As a family law attorney in Fort Lauderdale, I have many friends who ask me, “What should I consider before filing for divorce?” As such, I have listed a few things to consider if a divorce or separation is imminent.

Consult with an attorney.

Although you may be able to file for divorce on your own (uncontested divorce), it is almost always in your best interest to consult with an experienced divorce attorney before filing for divorce or entering into written agreements with your spouse. A divorce is one of the most important (and stressful) decisions a person will make in their life. The financial consequences alone can be life altering. Even if you “think” that you and your spouse can resolve the divorce amicably, problems always arise, especially if there are children involved. Don’t be a pennywise and be silly – make sure you have adequate legal counsel to advise you on the law and protect your interests.

Talk to a therapist.

Filing for divorce can be extremely stressful for you and your family (especially your children). It is important to be mentally prepared for the process. A therapist can help you navigate through the variety of emotions you will experience during a divorce. A therapist can also help you become self-sufficient, recommend relaxation outlets, and most importantly advise you on how to deal with and interact with your children and soon your former spouse. As always, you should refrain from speaking ill of your spouse in front of and / or in front of your children. Although it may be difficult, you should always foster a loving relationship between your children and your spouse.

Make copies and take an inventory.

Make copies of all your financial information (ie, tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, brokerage accounts, etc.). Once your spouse learns of an impending “divorce,” access to these items it can disappear suddenly, along with the money in the account. Also, take a careful inventory of valuables in safes (such as jewelry) or “cash kept in cookie jar.” Financial rights are a common pitfall in a divorce. This can be especially difficult when one of the parties is self-employed, owns a business, or earns a significant portion of their income in cash or through barter-in-kind. The more information you have available to your lawyer, the more likely you are to receive temporary support, recover the money transferred fraudulently (if any) and, finally, receive the corresponding right.

Marital home.

Do not move out of the marital home before speaking with an experienced divorce attorney. The Court is more likely to grant you sole possession of the marital home if you reside in the marital home before filing for divorce. Once you move out of the marital home, you may have a hard time returning. In the event that you or your children are victims of domestic abuse, there may be other options available to you, such as a court order against domestic violence, which is commonly known as a “restraining order.” That said, the safety of you and your children should always remain the top priority.

Start saving and building credit.

Divorces are expensive. If your spouse moves or stops paying the bills, you may stay paying the bills (ie, mortgage, electricity, utilities, etc.) until temporary support is awarded. Additionally, your attorney will require an advance to begin working on the case. If you are considering moving out of the marital residence, you will need money for rent, a security deposit, and common household items, such as a bed. Also, get a credit card in your name only. If your credit is bad, start paying off outstanding bills and improve your credit rating. Your spouse can refuse to pay anything without a court order. Plan for the worst – make sure you have a financial cushion at your disposal.

Delete personal items.

Remove all personal items from the marital residence that cannot be monetarily replaced to a safe location. Such items can include photos, videos, and family heirlooms. You can always buy a new TV, but you can’t replace your grandmother’s old vase.

Remember, you may want to follow these steps before discussing a possible divorce with your spouse. Once a divorce is “on the table,” these steps become much more difficult to accomplish. Completing these steps before divorce will inevitably save you a tremendous amount of time, stress, and aggravation in the months to come, and possibly secure the financial future for you and your children.

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