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Getting a Divorce? 4 Steps Before Filing

Dec. 9, 2022

The decision to divorce is not an easy one. The unknowns can be overwhelming. But having a plan in place can make the path ahead a bit less difficult. Here are some suggested steps before you file: 

1. Gather Financial Paperwork

Gather whatever financial paperwork you can find. This can give you an idea of what is in the marital estate and what you might end up with once the assets and debts are divided. It is not unusual that one party took care of all of the financial matters. If you’re the spouse in the marriage that did not know anything about the finances and cannot find any documentation, don’t worry. That can be handled later.   

2.  Put Together a Budget

Try to estimate the costs of living separately. Be realistic about your expenses.  Don’t underestimate, but also be aware that you may not be able to afford all the luxuries you were able to afford during the marriage. Once you have a budget in place, you can see if your income will cover your expenses, if there is a need to look for alternative employment, or if you will need the help of your spouse. If you are not sure if you will stay in the marital residence or finding a new place to stay, perhaps put together two or more budgets.   

3.  Lessen the Impact on Your Children

Of course, divorce is difficult for children as well. The more of that burden that can be taken away from your children, the smoother it may be for them. If there is area in which you should strive to come to an agreement with your spouse, this is the area. Battling custody out in the court is ugly and costly, both financially and emotionally. Try to coordinate with your spouse on a way to inform your children. Discuss a custody schedule that makes sense for the children while remembering the importance of the children’s continued relationship with both parents. If you are leaving the marital residence, try to stay close so that the children will not have to move schools or lose their friends and community. Sometimes, even when parents are taking all steps to help lessen the impact on children, they may still struggle. If you see signs that the children are not transitioning well, consider counseling.    

4.  Consider a Collaborative or Mediated Divorce

Battling divorce, custody and support issues in court is a lose-lose for all parties involved. But mediation and collaborative divorces are “healthier” ways to get divorced. In both processes, the parties can find solutions that work for their specific situation and are not necessarily limited by what the law might provide. The mediation and collaborative divorce process puts a value on peace; on having the ability to sustain a working relationship with your former spouse or partner. This can be invaluable for your future, particularly if you have children.