For many spouses, the question of whether to file for divorce is one of the biggest decisions they will make in their lives. Because of the emotional and mental toll a divorce will take on both spouses and on any relatives closely connected to the marriage, they want to make sure that they have attempted any possible ways to save the relationship with their spouse.
For a spouse contemplating filing for divorce, we offer the following advice to consider in order to decide if it's the right time for you:
1. Contact an Attorney: One of the first things you should do is to contact an experienced family law attorney in your jurisdiction. No matter how many legal shows you may watch dealing with divorce or divorce advice books you may have read, when you're contemplating divorce in real life, you need to know what the process will be like; how it will affect your children; how long it will take; and how much a divorce may cost financially for your family. Laying out the facts of your case, the concerns you may have, and any further questions you may have will help an experienced family law attorney guide you through the strategic steps you need to take next. Family law attorneys deal with divorces, and the legal strategies behind divorces, each and every day. Take advantage of their expertise and guidance in evaluating what you should do regarding filing for divorce or not.
2. Pay Close Attention to Marital Assets: Even if you are not quite at the point of being ready to talk to an attorney, in any struggling marriage, it is wise for you to pay close attention to certain assets, particularly bank accounts. If you begin to see large portions of funds being transferred from your joint account, you should seriously consider speaking with an attorney. If you determine that divorce is your next step, your attorney will be able to hire an expert forensic accountant to help trace where the funds went for the division of asset purposes. If you begin to see extensive debt piling up you will likely want to file for divorce as soon as possible since your "filing date" will determine which debts are considered marital versus individual debts.
3. Evaluate Retirement Assets: If you have any significant pension or 401(k) plans with your employer, you may want to file for divorce sooner rather than later. These types of retirement accounts are considered part of the marital estate. Even if you established the account(s) before the marriage the began, the portion of the account which you contributed between the date of marriage and the date of filing for divorce will be considered marital - along with any increase in value accrued during that time. Thus, these assets are subject to equitable distribution by the Family Court, as well.
4. Consider How Your Children Will Be Affected: If you have children, take some time to consider how their life will need to change if you or your spouse decide to file for divorce. In South Carolina, all divorces which involve children require each party to complete a Proposed Parenting Plan before the first hearing for consideration by the judge. Take some time to discuss all the elements of this plan with your attorney and with your support system to ensure you've considered all options which are best for your children in a way which the Court will find acceptable. You may also want to seek out a therapist to discuss the psychological effects your children may experience and get advice on how to properly respond and support them when the divorce process begins.
Ultimately, there are many other considerations to consider and there is rarely a “best” time to file for divorce. If you are contemplating a divorce and not sure of your legal rights when it comes to a divorce, don't hesitate to contact our office of experienced family law attorneys.
The Stevens Firm, P.A. - Family Law Center has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over two decades, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. We are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us at (864) 598-9172 to let us know how we can help you today.