As we've discussed before, January is an unusually busy time for divorce attorneys. In fact, estimates from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers indicate that the number of divorce filings in January increase by as much as 33%. Given that it seems clear that many couples are considering divorce in the New Year, once the holidays are behind them, what things should be done to prepare for an impending divorce? The following tips will help you in planning for a divorce step by step:
Do your research
If you plan on divorcing in the not-so-distant future, it's important to take steps now to ensure you are as prepared as possible. Anticipating a divorce before it happens gives you the benefit of time –both to do your homework and to get your ducks in a row.
One thing you should do is research important open questions. For instance, look into any prenuptial agreements that may exist, dig around to clarify ownership of certain items of property and, at a very broad level, try to familiarize yourself with some of the key divorce concepts that will apply to your case, such as determining whether your state is a community property or equitable division state?
Finally, take the time to start researching lawyers to determine which one would be the best fit for you. You will probably want to have this selection made and the attorney in place when the divorce finally gets underway.
In most divorces, there are a great many documents that must be collected and provided to your attorney. Getting a head start on the divorce can be very helpful in terms of finding out which documents you should be gathering.
At a minimum, make a list of all your separate or joint accounts (savings, investment, retirement, pension, etc.) and obtain a copy of the most recent statements for each. You'll also want to gather copies of your most recent tax returns, typically for the last three years if possible, along with the most recent pay stubs (or W2's, 1099s, etc.) for both you and your spouse.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, there are other financial issues that must be addressed in addition to merely dividing assets. For instance, there are often debts, which may include mortgage payments, vehicle loans, credit card debt, personal loans, business obligations, etc. You should try to obtain copies of the most recent statements for each of these, as it will help paint a more complete financial picture for your divorce attorney.
It can often be more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to get these records during the divorce. Doing so ahead of time can help remove an additional layer of stress to the process, and acting early allows you to mark one more thing off your list and enables you to show up to the first meeting with your divorce attorney more fully prepared.
Take care of yourself
If you know a divorce is (or might be) around the corner, it's a good time to start preparing yourself emotionally for the painful process that is to come. Ending a marriage and starting fresh can be hard on anyone, as it involves ending one chapter of your life and starting anew.
If you see the divorce coming, it can be good to try and clear other things off your plate, wrap up ongoing projects, try and ease the burdens on yourself as much as possible, freeing up as much emotional bandwidth as possible to handle the divorce.
It might also be helpful to go talk with a counselor or therapist and start working through some of you emotions before the process begins in earnest. Your divorce attorney can refer you to a well qualified counselor if you wish, and many clients find it helpful to have a neutral and objective person to assist them through the process.
If you or someone you know are facing a divorce, you are welcome to contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or online to request a consultation. Our Senior Partner, Ben Stevens, is one of only six attorneys in South Carolina who is a Fellow in both the highly prestigious and exclusive American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He only handles cases in the Family Court and has over two decades experience protecting people from all walks of life. Click here to read testimonials from some of our former clients.
Source: “Divorcing in 2016? Get your affairs in order first,” published at Marketwatch.com.