10 Things to Consider Before You File For Divorce
Are you considering filing for divorce? It’s crucial to approach this significant decision with careful thought and consideration. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or hoping for a smooth process, we’re here to help you navigate the complexities. Let’s explore ten essential factors to keep in mind.
Divorce filings can vary greatly. Some are meticulously planned and thought out, while others may be the result of hasty decisions fueled by allegations or incidents that arise during the stressful holiday season. Sometimes, the holidays serve as a catalyst, magnifying existing issues and intensifying emotions within the couple.
Whatever the reasoning, here are ten things to consider before filing for your divorce:
Consult with an attorney before filing
- While you don’t need an attorney to file for divorce, it is always recommended to get some legal advice before proceeding. This will help you understand your situation as seen through a legal lens. It will help you have a baseline understanding of what you are looking at and what you can expect down the road. It will help you avoid any costly mistakes that you might not be aware of. Even if you proceed on your own, consulting with an attorney before you file will be worth the investment.
Educate yourself on the different methods to get divorced
How you file can set the tone for your relationship moving forward. This is especially important if you have children together. The kind of process you choose to resolve the terms of your divorce can set you up for healthy co-parenting in the future, or can create more conflict between the two of you. Research your options and talk to different professionals who can help with your divorce. You can read more about divorce process options here.
Check to see if your state has a waiting period before your divorce can be final
- If you and your spouse are in agreement on the terms of your marriage, then it should be a matter of filing with the court, and then you’re done, right? Not so fast. Some states have waiting periods between the time that you file to start the divorce process and when you can finalize your divorce. In Washington State, it will take at least 90 days from when you file to when the judge says you are divorced. In Oregon, there is no waiting period, although it can take longer for the divorces to be processed in certain counties. Keep in mind that if you disagree with the terms of your divorce, it will take longer than the required waiting period.
Be aware that your divorce filing is a public record
- Your divorce is public record. Any member of the public upon request can obtain everything you file or say in court. There are very few exceptions to this rule. Keep this in mind when filing written documents with the court regarding your spouse or your children.
Determine your post-divorce goals
- Your goal may be to get through the divorce, but what happens after? Thinking about your goals for after the divorce is final can help give you clarity on what you want out of the divorce process and how to best set yourself up for success in your new life. Ask yourself the following questions: (a) What is my ideal, best-outcome scenario for when the divorce is final? (b) What is my worst outcome? (c) Out of my best and worst cases, what is it that I really need? How can I phrase that in terms of a goal rather than a result (i.e., do I need a specific asset, or does that asset represent stability to me)?
Figure out your living situation
- Living in the same home as your spouse as you go through divorce can set the stage for some serious conflict. Living on your friend’s couch without a defined timeline can also set the stage for some serious conflict. The faster you resolve your living situation and can start to establish your new living environment (even if it’s in your current home), the sooner you start to move forward and adjust to your new life.
Gather documents before filing
- Educate yourself on the marital property and debts. Make a list of all the assets and debts that you have together. Gather statements of all of these accounts. Get a clear picture of everything prior to filing, so you are not negotiating blindly. If you don’t have a document, go directly to the account or company to request a copy. If your name is on the account, or you signed a document, then you should be able to get a copy without involving your spouse. These are all documents that an attorney will need to advise you on how to proceed.
Talk with a financial planner
- Finances are usually the number one concern for what will happen post-divorce. Start planning your future now so that you will know what to ask for during the divorce. The more you can set yourself up for success now, by creating a plan for the future, the easier it will be to bounce back from the divorce.
Create a support system
- Divorce is one of the most stressful things you can experience in your life. You will also get lots of advice from well-meaning friends and family who are looking to protect you, or project their own experience on to you. Every divorce is different and you would do well to take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt. Seek out neutral people, or professionals, who can give you unbiased, clear perspective. Insulate yourself from the negative, draining people you have in your life. It is okay to surround yourself with your most positive support network right now.
Slow down and assess
- Is there a rush to get divorced? You might feel an emotional urgency to move the divorce along, but there might not be a real reason to rush to finalize the divorce. Divorces contain complex legal issues, and it will be beneficial to take the time to assess all the possibilities for dividing assets and debts, and establishing the parenting schedule that best supports the children, well before you make final decisions.