My marriage has been falling apart and I’ve made the difficult decision to start Divorce proceedings. But I have no idea what I should do first. Can you give me some guidance?
That’s a question I received recently. Deciding to officially start the process to end your marriage may be one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make, and the Divorce process can be one of the most emotional and difficult times you’ll ever go through in your life. But being prepared can make things easier.
First, decide what you want out of the Divorce. Some common considerations are:
Residential custody of any children – i.e. do you want to be the parent the children live with most of the time?
Child support – this only applies if you are the residential parent
Alimony – are you seeking it? (I’ll give you more details about this next week!)
Equitable Distribution – in short, this refers to the splitting of assets and debts accumulated during the marriage. (I’ll give you more details about this next week!)
Second, start gathering documents. This can be tricky if you are still living with your spouse and don’t want him / her to know your plans yet, but you will need information for your Divorce and it’s an easier process if you have all, if not most, of this information at the start of the process than trying to find it after the Divorce Complaint has been filed and the Court starts imposing strict deadlines on you. The most important documents you’ll need are:
Your last three paystubs and those of your spouse if you can locate them.
Your last 5 years of tax returns & W-2’s and 1099’s. If you did not file jointly, try to locate those of your spouse as well if you can.
Your current bills / debts (i.e. credit card bills, car loans, car insurance, utility bills, rental / mortgage statements, cell phone bills, etc.)
Your last three years of bank statements
Your most recent pension / 401(k) / IRA statement
These are the key financial documents you’ll need to get the process started. Being prepared early on makes the process easier for everyone.
Third, only if you feel comfortable, you may want to consider discussing Divorce with your spouse. You guys may be able to reach an Agreement on things which would make the process much easier and faster.
Those are the first suggestions I have for anyone considering getting Divorced. You can make a more informed decision after you gather those documents and at least consult with an attorney.
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The contents of this blog entry are provided for informational purposes only. You should consult with an attorney to determine how the law applies to the facts of your particular case. Reading this blog entry does not create an attorney-client relationship with Kelly McGriff Law.