4 Steps to Filing for Divorce
Your to-do list is about to explode in size, even before you file your separation papers.
Most people feel overwhelmed when going through the divorce process because there is just simply so much to do.
But making lists, practicing compartmentalization and getting help from the super team you’re about to put together can help you pull through all of this.
The first thing you’re going to do is read this blog. We’re going to walk you through everything you need to do before, during and after a divorce.
Step 1. Reach Out to The Right People
They say it takes a village to raise a child. It may take a village to lift you up in these hard times.
Here are some of the people you’re going to want to make sure you have on speed dial.
A Divorce/ Family Lawyer
You may hear that you don’t need a lawyer, especially if you’re anticipating a relatively low-conflict or uncontested divorce. That’s actually terrible advice. This is way more complex than just signing separation papers.
A family law firm isn’t just for heated courtroom battle and ugly child custody battles. They are there to be your go-to source of peace-of-mind through every set of this stressful time.
Even if things run smoothly, you’re still going to need legal advice about what’s required and what’s ahead of every corner.
And if you are expecting any sort of conflict over support, custody or assets, you will 100% need a lawyer.
Family law specifics and strategy is far too complex to go into by yourself. You need to work with an attorney with a proven record of fighting these battles and winning.
You will also just need someone who can stay level headed and take emotion out of the equation during the negotiation process.
Also, it just never hurts to feel like someone is on your side, and in your corner. You will sleep better.
A Counselor or Therapist
Even if you’re feeling a sense of optimism or relief about the dissolving of your marriage, you should still reach out to a counselor or therapist to really unpack the events leading up to and surrounding signing your separation papers.
Men and women will each face their own sets of stresses and threats when going through a divorce. For example:
- Divorced men are 39% more likely to commit suicide and engage in risky behavior than married men
- On average, one year after divorce, women’s standard of living decreases by 73%
Good or bad, for better or for worse, you’re entering into a new phase in your life. There is no need to face it alone.
Family and Friends
This is the perfect time to reconnect with family and friends that you may have grown somewhat apart from. Or maybe get even closer with a trusted confidant you leaned on during the time leading up to deciding it was time for separation papers.
This is not the time to be alone, even though you will just feel like locking all the doors and turning off the lights and your phone.
The temptation to retreat within yourself is going to be there every single day. Rise above it and surround yourself with people who make you feel good.
Also, it can help to connect with people you know have been through the same thing.
Step 2. Set Your Goals
A divorce can feel like a hurricane that just picks you up and throws you wherever it feels like putting you. But that’s not the case. You’re going to encounter some stormy weather, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide where you will end up.
During this time prior to signing separation papers, you can build good habits or bad ones. Setting specific goals for yourself and your life during this time can be an invaluable way to make sure you’re on the right course.
We know this one can be hard, with so much uncertainty going into signing the final separation papers.
If this is going to be a hotly contested divorce, you may not know who is going to get the house, who is going to be financially responsible for the kids, and what the support payments will be.
You might not know where you’re going to live, who you’re going to be supporting, or whether or not you need a new job. But you can still set goals.
This is where your divorce lawyer comes in very handy. You need to have a frank conversation with them to try to ascertain what can be reasonably expected for settlement, and what their goals and expectations are for your settlement.
And you can be prepared. Have rough goals for what your life will look like if things turn out better than expected during the trial, worse than expected, or as expected.
If your spouse used to be the person who took care of all the financial details, now would be a good time to look into getting an accountant and financial advisor before you put ink to any separation papers.
And the older you are when you’re divorced, the more the financial sting can be. 80% of people who divorce after 50 have had to delay their retirement because of a divorce.
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way if you’re prepared and you have a plan.
Even when you feel your worst, this is a massive opportunity to better yourself. Envision what you want your life to be like leading up to signing your separation papers and after.
The key is setting the right type of personal goals. Don’t be too vague. I want to be a better parent is in Noble and admirable goal. But you need to be able to quantify the success of that somehow.
You need to set smart goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-limited.
Attaching these qualifiers to a goal will help you achieve them by keeping you accountable and showing you exactly what success looks like.
- “I want to be a better parent” is good. “I want to take the kids out for at least one special activity a week, starting immediately” is better.
- “I want to focus on my career” is good. “I want 20% more sales commissions over the next six months” is better.
- “I want to get in shape” is good. “I want to join a gym by the end of the month, and then go three times per week” is better.
- “I want to keep my drinking under control” is good. “I want to limit myself to zero drinks during the week and 3 over the weekend” is better.
Setting SMART goals is the best way to ensure you’re not just floundering aimlessly.
Step 3. Get Your Documents Together
A lot of work often needs to go into signing separation papers. This is why you need to work with an experienced divorce lawyer, so you can make sure all the paperwork is complete and no deadlines are missed.
This is far from an exhaustive list, but some of the documents you may want to gather now include:
- Income Tax Returns
- Partnership and corporate tax returns
- Pay stubs
- Benefits information
- Financial Records
- Bank statements
- Monthly expense reports
- Investment properties and rental (or lease) agreements
- Bankruptcy papers
Personal/ Legal Documents:
- Deeds to the home/ rental agreements
- Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
- Wills and Trust Agreements
- Date of marriage
- Date of birth and social security numbers for you, your spouse, children
- Insurance policies
- Life/ Car/ Home insurance
Again, you may need to provide even more than this. But your lawyer should advise you on what you need.
Step 4. Make Yourself a Priority
This is the step that too many people skip. Don’t lose sight of yourself during this process.
Self is the most important, yet most neglected, part of surviving the divorce process. It’s up to you to take care of you.
The tendency is to just figuratively put your head down and plow through. Some people do nothing but think of what’s best for the kids during this process. Other may throw themselves into their work or career.
Remember, you’re in charge of your own happiness. Sure, a divorce settlement can certainly help or hurt your financial independence, and your ability to pursue a fruitful life after divorce. But that’s not the determining factor.
No matter how things pan out, you need to be the one to take care of you. And ensure you’re taking steps towards your own happiness, instead of worrying about what everyone else thinks you should be doing.
Get Help With More Than Just Separation Papers
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