Divorce can be a stressful process. If you are considering a divorce, there are several helpful steps you can take to prepare. And the more prepared you can be going into the process the better off you will be during the process. Accordingly, here are 10 steps you should consider in advance:
1. Gather financial information. Important documents to gather include income tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, lists of assets and liabilities, deeds and trust documents. Eventually, a divorce lawyer will want to review this information. If you are not yet at that stage, then store these types of documents in a safe place until you meet with a divorce lawyer. If you do not have access to this documentation, its not fatal, as you can always obtain the same documents during the divorce process. However, if you are able to gather these types of documentation in advance, the better prepared you will be to start the process.
2. Make sure you have access to your on-line account information. If you do not already have on-line access, set up accounts and passwords.
3. Obtain a private email address. If you do not have your own private email address and/or your spouse has access to your current email address, then create a new one to ensure that your communications with your divorce lawyer are private.
4. Review your powers of attorney. Consider changing existing powers of attorney for health care and property to someone other than your soon to be ex-spouse. If you do not have powers of attorney, obtain the forms and prepare them.
5. Have a safety plan. Especially if you are in an abusive relationship, have a safety plan in place for when you file for divorce. Figure out who you can stay with on an emergency basis and ensure you have access to some money for emergency use.
6. Obtain a credit card. If you do not have a credit card solely in your name, consider applying for one. Building credit is important and it may be easier to obtain your own credit card prior to divorcing.
7. Look into hiring a therapist for yourself. Going through a divorce is hard and having a support system in place is important. Moreover, a therapist is often less expensive than a divorce lawyer so have those difficult conversations with your therapist and allow your lawyer to handle the process for you.
8. Find support for your children. If you have children, become familiar with the services provided at school for children of divorce. There are often social workers or groups for the children whose parents are divorcing. When you are ready, you can also let your children’s teachers know about the divorce so they can report any issues they may see with your children at school.
9. Look into therapists for your children. It is important that your children feel supported and heard during this stressful time so having the names of a few well regarded child centered therapists ready to go is a good idea.
10. Understand what you do not know. If there are certain tasks your spouse has historically done in your marriage, then start to understand those tasks. For example, if your spouse is the one that pays the bills each month then start to familiarize yourself with the bills and how to pay them.
Finally, every person’s divorce is different and every person reaches this decision on their own terms. While there is no one set way to navigate this difficult decision, advance preparation is always helpful and beneficial as you embark on this unfamiliar terrain.