Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Quick Reference Guide to Preparing for a Divorce

By Sarah M. Barrios, Esq. & Marki A. Stewart, Esq.

It’s hard to dismantle and disentangle a shared life. Fear and anxiety about divorce, the legal process and personal transition, frequently keep people in marriages that are abusive, plagued by infidelity, or fraught with friction. If you reach the (sometimes startling) conclusion that your marriage may end, here are five things to consider in preparing for divorce.

1. Compile Documents. Collect your last three years’ tax returns, and the past six months’ credit card statements, bank account statements, medical care invoices, and business expense records. Also collect any prenuptial or post-marital agreements, wills, disclaimer deeds, and trust documents. Whether or not you were involved in managing family finances during the marriage, understanding the debts and assets involved in the divorce is critical for the proceedings and for your attorney’s understanding of the issues, and will empower you to make informed decisions.

2. Know When To Act Quickly. Divorces can be contentious, and some marriages are characterized by verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. Obtain an Order of Protection if you are threatened or fear for your safety or that of loved ones. If your spouse is excessively spending or incurring debts detrimental to the marriage, filing for divorce sooner rather than later can help you preserve resources needed during and after the divorce.

3. Consult With An Attorney. Consult with at least one family law attorney before filing for divorce. There is no substitute for an experienced family law attorney with expertise in dealing with the issues in your case. Additionally, there are immediate consequences to filing for a divorce, such as the issuance of a preliminary injunction that will prohibit you from removing funds from bank accounts, traveling with children out of state, and selling items or property, among other restrictions. Knowing the process before you begin can help you plan.

4. Understand the Alternatives. There are alternatives to divorce that may better suit your situation, including legal separation and conciliation services. Consulting with a family lawyer can help you make the best decision for your circumstances.

5. Talk to Your Kids. Spouses who are parents must also address a tough question: how to tell the kids? Children may experience anxiety or blame themselves if parents fail to communicate. When appropriate, work with your spouse or third-party counselor in developing a plan to discuss the situation with your children.