Start by contacting an experienced Divorce Attorney.
Each divorce is different depending on the case and family situation. There can be many twists and turns when it comes to preparing for your divorce. You need an expert on divorce law to help you navigate it. Once you have a divorce attorney protecting your interests, your attorney will probably start planning a strategy for divorce preparation. Each strategy needs to be specific to you but in general, it will follow these steps:
You will need to start collecting all of your financial documents, personal records, and insurance information. A few of the most important documents to get are:
- Income information – This will include your paycheck stubs for the last 12 months, full income tax returns for the last three (3) years, the most recent W-2 forms for you and your spouse, the most recent 1099 forms for you and your spouse, and records reflecting estimated payments made during for the prior year.
- Savings, checking and credit union accounts for the last year.
- Retirement plans – You will need a summary plan and benefit statements.
- Real estate records, mortgage statements, and property tax bills.
- A list of household furniture, furnishings, and personal property.
- Vehicles list – This includes current value, purchase contracts, leases, and monthly statements.
- Life insurance policies
- Investment portfolio
- Profit-sharing plans and annuities
- Partnership records
- Corporate tax returns for the past 3 years
- Support arrearages
- Estate plans and wills
Start protecting your sensitive information by:
- Securing your computer with a password
- Changing your passwords for any shared or online accounts. If you share an email account then starting a new account should be a high priority. You will need a secure email for you and your attorney to discuss your case.
- Restricting access to any cloud storage accounts with a change of password or providers.
- Forwarding your physical mail to a Post Office box or to a relative’s address.
Start preparing a budget. Your attorney can provide you with the forms you need. You have to start cutting all financial ties between you and your spouse. This means:
- Starting your own bank account, preferably in a different bank than your spouse. Keep enough money in this account to support yourself and your kids through the divorce. Use your budget as a guideline. Don’t try to move any funds that may belong to your spouse.
- Avoiding the accumulation of new debt. You need your assets to stay liquid.
- Researching alternative healthcare plans if you share medical insurance plans with your spouse.
Don’t let your personal life falter. Stay active in your children’s lives. It will help them to make the transition more easily and it may help you later when it comes time to decide custody. Start keeping a journal. It will help to relieve stress and it is a good place to keep facts, times, dates, and events surrounding your marriage, children, and divorce. This evidence may be helpful to your attorney when representing you. Also, make sure you maintain the evidence in a secure location where your spouse will not find it.
Start making plans for life after divorce. Think about where will you live, work, play, etc.
Discuss the divorce with your spouse. Stay calm and as positive as possible. This meeting will set the tone for your post-divorce interaction. Hopefully, you will be able to part amicably.