There are also many practicalities to keep in mind and to this end it is crucial that you take the initiative to educate yourself regarding what to expect.
What must you do before divorcing?
1. Hire a great divorce lawyer. Interview more than one divorce lawyer and choose one with experience and specialty in the field. Ideally, if you and your spouse can approach the separation collaboratively, issues will be settled much easier and at less cost. Your lawyer should agree that quick settlement is ideal, but be willing to fight for you in court if required to do so.
2. Know your financial position. This is critical so that marital assets can be distributed equitably. Assets may include the family home, vehicles, financial accounts, inheritances, superannuation and other personal assets. You also need to be fully apprised of marital debts.
3. Gather proof of your and your spouse’s incomes. This can be in the form of tax returns. If either of you are self-employed, your lawyer may need to embark on a discovery process to properly ascertain true income.
4. Establish your own credit. If you don’t already have a credit card and a bank account in your name only, do so now. Be sensible and avoid running up debt for yourself. Only spend what you can afford.
5. Evaluate joint accounts. You will need financial documents for this. You’ll need to know exactly how much money was in these accounts at the date of separation, and some steps may need to be taken to prevent your spouse from raiding or even emptying joint accounts. Document every dollar you spend and keep the record for settlement negotiations. In extreme situations, freezing accounts may be an option, however, you will need to discuss this with your lawyer.
6. Close all joint credit accounts. Pay off and close all credit accounts that are held jointly. The sooner this is done the better.
7. Create a budget for post-separation/divorce. You will need to know what your financial requirements are for the settlement if your case has to go to court. This will include spousal support and child support if they are to be paid by either party.
8. Decide on your domestic arrangements. Are you moving out – or is your spouse? Unless you are in an abusive environment, there are reasons to stay in the marital home than to leave, from a legal and practical point of view. This is especially important if you are sharing a mortgage or if you have children who you wish to have remain in the family home.
9. Be responsible. Especially if child custody is going to be an issue. Be a great parent. Don’t go out excessively partying, dating immediately, moving in with another partner, or spending enormous amounts of money. Look after yourself and make your wellbeing and that of your children your priority.
By understanding your rights, responsibilities and how to go about the legal and practical process of separation and divorce, you will be in a much better position to negotiate and come out the other side with a fair outcome. Knowledge truly is power.
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