Ending a marriage is a difficult decision, and is likely to lead to the
complicated process of a divorce. Once the decision has been made, a couple
will need to prepare to file their divorce, divide their assets and liabilities,
determine child custody, and take other steps to separate their lives.
There is much to do before a divorce can be finalized, but preparation
ahead of the time can ease the process. Here are some tips to help you
get ready to file for divorce.
Save Money for your Future
Divorce is a costly process, and you may have to change your budget and
lifestyle to reflect your post-divorce income. Set aside money in an account
that you have sole control over. Deposit all or part of your paycheck
to the account. Reduce your spending, and save up what you can.
When you need to split up your shared assets and debts, it is best to know
everything that you have to divide, including stock options, retirement
benefits, joint accounts, mortgages, loans, and other shared responsibilities.
Gather copies of statements, payment histories, pay stubs, tax returns,
receipts for large purchases, and other documentation that can help you
prove what your marriage’s financial situation is. If your spouse
should try to withhold assets, you will have the proof needed to gain
a fair settlement. Store these documents securely away from your home,
as they can play a crucial role in your settlement.
Document Your Spouse’s Involvement with Your Children
If you have children, you can fight for the custody agreement you want
more easily when you have proof of your spouse’s involvement in
your children’s life. Write down who takes children to school or
picks them up, which parent attends extra-curricular activities and appointments,
and other events. You may be able to gather documentation from your children’s
school about parental involvement and parent-teacher meeting attendance
to prove that you are invested in your children’s lives. Have copies
of police reports or drug tests that could demonstrate that your spouse
is unfit to have custody of your children. Like financial documents, these
documents should be stored safely in another location, since they can
help your case for custody.
Find an Attorney
You will need legal representation in your divorce. Before you file, it
is best to find a lawyer that you feel comfortable with. They can be an
important resource when you are trying to gather evidence and prepare
to file your petition for divorce, as well as represent you during the
divorce process. Interview several until you find an attorney that has
the experience, style, and rates that you need.
File for Divorce and Serve the Petition
After you have prepared for divorce, you will need to file your petition
with the right court and inform your spouse. Depending on your situation,
you may wish to either file for divorce without informing your spouse
before you do, or you may want to break the news to them before going
through the formal process. If you want to talk with them first, try to
be kind and avoid laying blame. This can make your divorce easier and
more amicable. When you file your petition, you will have to serve the
other party the petition as well for your case to proceed. In California,
you can designate any individual over the age of 18 to serve the court
summons and petition to your spouse, or you may hire a county sheriff
or professional process server to deliver the documents.
Breaking the News to Your Children
If possible, try to break the news as a family. Your spouse should help
you to have the conversation. Present a united front, and be prepared
for a variety of reactions. Following the conversation, be sure to be
available and spend extra time with your children. Allow them to ask questions
and try to answer as best you can.
Preparing for a divorce can be time consuming and painful. A trusted divorce
attorney can help guide your through all aspects of the process, and can
provide advice and representation when you need it most. Don’t face
this emotional time without help.
If you are contemplating divorce or have begun to prepare, I can help.
I am a Westlake Divorce attorney with over 30 years of experience helping
my clients. I understand the pain and stress you are facing, and I am
committed to helping you resolve your case. Contact the Law Offices of
Jeffrey S. Graff to learn more or to arrange for a free consultation.