Your divorce can be one of the most important business decisions that you make in your lifetime. Whether you have years of employment ahead, have stayed home to support the household, or are nearing retirement, a divorce is a life event with long lasting personal, emotional, and financial implications. Some couples are quick to call it quits, rushing to finalize their case to “get it over with” and dreading the process. However, in rushing to hire an attorney and “get it done,” parties often overlook some preliminary steps that they can take to help their case prior to signaling the end of the relationship:
- Prior to filing for divorce, moving out of the family home, or advising a spouse of an intent to divorce, parties are in a unique position when it comes to access to information. This includes, but is not limited to access to financial records, letters, calendars, residences, vehicles, personal property, pictures, videos, and other evidence that might prove useful depending on the issues in your case. While much of this can be obtained during the divorce process, prior to ringing the divorce bell there is an opportunity to freely make copies, take pictures, and build your case file without barriers which might enable your attorney to quickly understand and pursue important issues in your case.
- Social Media. Attorneys regularly look to the internet and the parties’ social media postings when assessing a case. Depending on the issues, social media can be a great place to look for timelines of events, pictures, conduct, or posts on beliefs, disputes, or state of mind. To that end, prior to filing your case it is a good idea to ensure that the image you present on social media is the same image you want the family court to see. Additionally, spouses will sometimes have private profiles and accounts only accessible by family and friends. Where visible prior to filing, that may not be the case after a spouse learns of your intention to end the relationship, possibly limiting access to potentially useful information at the forefront of your case.
- When it comes to issues of parenting, the court will usually focus on the status quo and who is responsible for daily child and parenting duties when it comes to decisions about the time children spend with each parent. A journal of tasks and events recorded and kept prior to filing often presents good evidence to the court in support of your contributions to parenting and child-rearing tasks.
- Emergency Funds. Spouses often have different reactions to the decision to divorce, one of which is cutting off access to finances. While cutting off access is widely discouraged and often restrained, it might be wise to create a small emergency fund to carry you through such periods and allow you to pay for expenses and attorney’s fees prior to being able to obtain court intervention.
- Necessary Purchases, Repairs, or Sales. Financial resources are often limited after filing for divorce. The court may also limit the ability to sell or dispose of property after the case has begun. If your car needs new tires or your house has a leaky roof, it might make sense to complete those tasks prior to filing. Likewise, if you have a property sale that has been contemplated for some time, it can be far more efficient to complete it, rather than trying to compel it after the case is started and the court is involved.
- Find a Counselor. A divorce is more than the end of a marriage; it is often the end of plans, expectations, family, and friendships. Experiencing a divorce can be like experiencing a death, and the process for recovery is similar. Where your divorce may take several months or even more than a year, you should consider working with a counselor to help you cope with the feelings and emotions that accompany the process from the very beginning.
- Update Your Will. The divorce process takes time and life is oftentimes unpredictable. Take the necessary steps to ensure only the right people benefit from your death, such as your children or close family members, by updating your will.
The more prepared you are as a client, the more prepared your attorney is to address and meet your needs while the case is pending. While not all of the above steps may be necessary in every case, taking the time to assess each of these steps prior to announcing your divorce may contribute to a more successful start, process, and outcome in the long run.