The Top 7 Things to Know Before Filing for Divorce

Consulting with a qualified divorce attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations when filing for divorce. Here are 7 things you should know.

Two golden wedding bands with a crack down the middle
Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers

March 16, 2023 03:38 PM

Filing for divorce can be a complex and emotional process, with many factors to consider before making the decision to end a marriage. In this blog, we will discuss the top seven things to know before filing for divorce, to help you make the best decisions for yourself and your future.

Know the Legal Requirements

Before filing for divorce, it is important to understand the legal requirements in your state, such as residency requirements, grounds for divorce and the required waiting period. This will ensure that your divorce is processed efficiently and in accordance with the law.

Divorce laws vary from state to state, so it's important to consult a local attorney for specific information regarding the laws in your area. However, in general, here are some of the legal requirements that you need to be aware of before filing for divorce

  1. Residency requirements: Most states require that at least one spouse has lived in the state for a certain period of time, usually six months to a year, before the couple can file for divorce.
  2. Grounds for divorce: Most states recognize either fault-based or no-fault grounds for divorce. No-fault grounds for divorce typically require that the couple has lived apart for a certain period of time, usually six months to a year, and that they have irreconcilable differences.
  3. Property division: The divorce process typically involves dividing property, assets and debts between the spouses. The specific rules for property division vary by state, but they generally follow either a community property or equitable distribution system.
  4. Child custody and support: If the couple has children, the divorce process will involve determining custody arrangements and child support obligations. The best interests of the children will typically be the primary consideration in these decisions.
  5. Spousal support: In some cases, one spouse may be required to pay support to the other after the divorce. The specific rules for spousal support vary by state, but they typically take into account factors such as the length of the marriage, the income of each spouse and the ability of each spouse to support themselves.

It's important to note that divorce can be a complex legal process, and it's in your best interest to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that your rights and interests are protected.

Gather Financial Documents

Divorce can have a significant impact on your finances, so it is important to gather all relevant financial documents. These can include, but are not limited to:

  1. Tax returns: You will need to provide copies of your federal and state tax returns for the past several years.
  2. Pay stubs: Provide copies of your pay stubs, W-2 forms, or 1099 forms to show your proof of income over the past year.
  3. Bank statements: You will need to provide copies of your bank account statements, including checking and savings accounts, to show your current financial assets.
  4. Retirement account statements: Provide copies of statements from your retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s or IRAs, to show the current value of your retirement savings.
  5. Investment account statements: Provide copies of statements from any investment accounts, such as stocks or bonds, to show the current value of your investments.
  6. Mortgage statements: If you own a home, provide a copy of your mortgage statement to show the current balance and interest rate.
  7. Credit card statements: Provide copies of your credit card statements to show any outstanding debts and the interest rates.
  8. Loan statements: Provide copies of any loan statements, such as auto loans or personal loans, to show the current balance and interest rate.
  9. Business financials: If you own a business, provide financial statements, tax returns, and other relevant documents to show the current financial health of the business.

Financials will be important to document fully, especially as you navigate the cost of filing for divorce and come to the terms of your divorce.

Consider Mediation

Mediation can be a cost-effective and less adversarial alternative to traditional divorce proceedings. It allows both parties to work with a neutral mediator to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on issues such as property division, child custody, and support.

Get Legal Advice

Consulting with a qualified divorce attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations under the law and ensure that your interests are protected throughout the divorce process. Filing for divorce without a lawyer puts you at an immediate disadvantage, especially if your spouse has hired a lawyer. It’s an essential step to filing for a divorce to hire a family law attorney who will help you come to a settlement agreement that you and your spouse agree on.

Prepare for Emotional Turmoil

Divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster, and it is important to be prepared for the feelings of anger, sadness and grief that may arise. Seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist can help you navigate this difficult time.

Be Realistic About Your Expectations

It is important to have realistic expectations about the divorce process, including the length of time it will take, the cost involved and the outcome. Having a clear understanding of what you can and cannot achieve in the divorce will help you make informed decisions and avoid disappointment.

Plan for the Future

Divorce can be a turning point in your life, and it is important to take the time to think about what you want for your future and make a plan for moving forward. Whether it's pursuing new career opportunities, building a support network or focusing on personal growth, having a plan in place will help you feel more confident and optimistic about the future.

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Headline Image: iStock/jessekarjalainen, Adobe Stock/Nattawut

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