It is always difficult to be practical and pragmatic during an inherently emotional time.
However, during separation and divorce, there is a great deal at stake, especially if you have children. It is important to be as prepared as possible for what is inevitably around the corner.
By gathering the documents you need and addressing the key decisions that you and your partner will need to make, you can minimize the stress, delays, and expense associated with the divorce process.
Here we take a look at the main areas you can start preparing for in the days and weeks after you and your partner decide to separate.
Gather Your Financial Records and Documents
A great deal of your separation agreement or divorce settlement will depend upon your financial circumstances at the time of marriage and at the time of separation: notably, the division of assets, spousal support (alimony), and child support.
Accordingly, your lawyer will require documentation to clearly demonstrate the property and other assets that you own and any liabilities that you have.
Whether you choose to negotiate, mediate, arbitrate, or litigate your family law matter, full and frank financial disclosure is always required in order to achieve a lasting, fair, and reasonable settlement.
To this end, you should start preparing a list of assets and liabilities that you and your partner brought into the marriage, invested in together, and received during the marriage.
If possible, include the date of acquisition of the asset or debt, its value when acquired, and an estimate of its value now.
Note that some gifts or inheritances received during your marriage might not be subject to the division of property rule like other assets accumulated during the marriage, but still list them anyway.
Consider all assets such as:
- Real estate investments that you own
- The property that you live in
- Mortgages and loans
- Bank accounts and savings accounts
- Brokerage accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Valuable collectables, such as works of art, wine, jewelry, and antiques
- Credit cards
- Other household contents
The documentation that you will need to find to support your claims includes:
- Property deeds
- Bank statements
- Investment account statements
- Pension plan information
- Credit card statements
- Income tax returns
- Earnings records
- Social security statements
- Wills and trust agreements
- Insurance policies
Try to locate all of these important financial records and documents and provide a copy of them to your divorce lawyer. In contested divorces, it is especially important to locate and secure the documentation you need as soon as possible, as your spouse might withhold or destroy critical documents and records.
Gather Your Personal Records And Documents
Gathering other key personal records and documents will help to make the process more efficient for you and your divorce lawyer.
The records and documents you will need include:
- Marriage certificate
- Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements – the presence of either of these documents may determine what happens with regards to property division, spousal support, etc.
- Documents that prove the date of birth for you and your spouse
- Documents that confirm information about any dependent children, such as dates of birth, education details, etc. as these may be needed by the court for making child custody decisions
Start Making Preparations For Your Children
If there are children from the marriage, taking steps to care for their future is usually the single biggest challenge that you and your spouse face.
To prepare for this, you can start gathering information that will help you and your lawyers work through this difficult matter.
You will want to keep your children out of your marital problems and focus, instead, on their wellbeing and best interests.
The ultimate goal is a parenting plan that outlines precisely how you and your spouse will look after the best interests of your children when you live separately.
Consider the following questions and, if possible, start working with your spouse on some viable plans for your children’s care in the immediate and longer-term future:
- What is the best custody arrangement for your children (usually joint custody)?
- Which parent will the children live with primarily?
- How will you work out visitation rights for the other spouse?
- What are the children’s educational and medical needs?
Other preparations you can make include:
- Discussing the matter with your children so that they are aware of what is going to happen and how you will always be there for them. You can also answer any questions they may have and listen to their opinions.
- Informing the children’s daycare and/or school about the changes to your family situation
- Keeping routines as regular as possible, despite your marital difficulties
Start Considering The Division Of Property And Possessions
The division of matrimonial property is another frequent point of contention in divorce proceedings. Making a few preparations early can save you time, confusion, and stress.
Gathering important financial records, as discussed earlier, is a great first step.
Also, start considering the following:
- What assets did you and your spouse bring into the marriage and which of those assets remain now?
- What do you and your spouse both want from the division of property?
- Will one party continue to live in the matrimonial home or will it be sold?
- Will you be able to reach an agreement on your own or with the assistance of divorce lawyers?
Ultimately, the division of matrimonial property involves a delicate balance between the preferences of the parties and the application of the law.
Start Preparing For Your Divorce
You do not need to handle the divorce process alone. An experienced divorce lawyer at Amiri Family Law can help you reach a settlement that keeps you out of the courts.
Start with a free consultation to help us evaluate your case.