The flowers. The honeymoon. The wedding reception that took everyone’s breath away. Each of these symbols can seem either far in the past or belonging to someone else when you face the inevitability of divorce.
Friends are going to give you advice; it’s what they do. Especially friends who have been there and done that.
How can you protect yourself from bad advice and get through this painful process with minimal damage to your heart and your psyche?
By being a little selfish and thinking about ways to get through the process with your head held high and your life squared away, both emotionally and financially.
The Montgomery-based Martin Law firm knows a thing or two about divorce protocols because our specialists have handled everything from small mediations to lengthy trials.
These experiences form the basis of the expertise we offer every client. Toward that end, the following sage advice is being provided for your consideration, so you’re prepared for what lies ahead.
10 Steps to take before you file for divorce
1. Line up your support network
We see you saying, why is this important? Well, even folks who get along really well once papers are filed with the court can find themselves feeling alone because friends and family may be reluctant to take sides.
It happens. That’s why talking to a few very close allies (friends or family) and asking for their support can give you more confidence if you decide to proceed.
2. Got counseling?
If you’ve already tried counseling—-couples or individual—-and came up empty when looking for reasons to stay wed, you can skip this tip. Advice, if you’ve not tried it, is to bolster you, whether you decide to split up or not.
Being sure that this is what you can require digging and who better to help you dig than a trained professional? Plenty of undecided people start counseling as a preparatory measure, and you’re wise to consider it.
3. Collect and safeguard financial documents
Make copies if you worry they could mysteriously disappear. We hate to sound repetitive, but it bears mentioning: many couples start out committed to smoothing the way for an amicable divorce say, “We’re committed to splitting things equitably.”
In some cases, that’s true. But if not, you’ll protect yourself by squirreling away copies of bank and retirement accounts, assets, debts, loans and other financials. Stash them with a relative for safekeeping.
4. Need a new car? Buy it now.
Many people find this tip a little odd, but it makes perfect sense: during what could be a long and arduous road to divorce, the court may not allow either of you to make a significant purchase or sell significant assets because they’re considered marital property.
Further, you wouldn’t be the first person to be on the receiving end of a once-compliant, soon-to-be ex who decides that revenge is a good thing and making money an issue is the best way to get it.
5. Choose the best attorney for your unique situation
At the Martin Law firm, we know that every couple is unique. Every divorce is, too. Our highly-qualified divorce attorneys want you to be comfortable and feel confident, knowing that the relationship between client and lawyer is sacrosanct, personal and private from day one. Our fee-free initial consult can help establish that strong bond immediately.
6. Don’t keep secrets from your attorney
When someone walks into a confessional or seeks spiritual guidance from a rabbi or imam, what good would it do to unburden oneself if the confessor avoids the truth? You must decide that you’ll fully disclose everything to your attorney, even if you feel shame or guilt.
This is particularly important if there’s been physical abuse during your marriage, you are having an affair, have contracted an STD or child welfare authorities have been engaged. Hiding money can be the biggest Pandora’s box of all.
7. Establish credit in your name
Once upon a time, couples shared credit, and it was unusual to find women, especially, with their credit cards and ratings.
These days, it’s more common for husbands and wives to maintain separate credit. In case you’re not one of them, take a minute to read this article on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website and establish your credit immediately.
Even if you decide not to divorce, there is no downside to making this decision.
8. Will you stay, or will you go?
Sharing a home during the period between filing and finalizing a divorce can create undue tension between a couple and perhaps their kids, too. But your attorney may urge you to dig in and stay put until things are sorted out regarding marital property and custodial issues.
Take this advice from your lawyers seriously, because they have your best interest at heart. Even if you’re domiciled under the same roof, that doesn’t mean you can’t begin the healing process with help and support from your legal team.
9. Draw up a post-divorce budget
Unreasonable expectations in areas like spousal support and child payment issues have been known to take a simmering state of unrest and turn it into World War III. If you’re lucky enough to avoid this, you’ll still be glad you took the time to figure out how much money you will need to live and pay your bills once you’re on your own.
This is an area that may also come under the purview of your attorney, or she may refer you to a financial manager if you’re new at this. The amount of money you need for living expenses will be contingent on child custody settlements, so you’re wise to create several draft budgets.
10. Prepare yourself for the custody arrangement process
These days, it’s not just about kids. Divorce can also impact ailing parents for whom one partner is responsible and the number of contentious divorces that revolve around family pets these days could surprise you.
Because this can be the single biggest factor in divorce negotiations, you can’t afford to hire an attorney who’s neither knowledgeable about child custody issues nor prepared to provide proper counseling as you work through this sensitive portion of your divorce.
At Martin Law, we’ve got kids, too. We know how much emotional support you’ll need during this arduous journey.
You can survive a divorce and thrive once it’s over
The word “communicate” has become a cliché within a society rife with people who rarely move their eyes from the screens of their devices, but in fact, your ability to communicate with your attorney can often mean the difference between saving your sanity and losing it.
Because this aspect of your divorce is so critical in our eyes, every attorney at J.B. Martin Law is trained in the fine art of listening.
Like a therapist, your attorney will pick up subtle clues about the nuances of your relationship that can lead to a better understanding of your situation.
As you two travel the road to marriage dissolution, you’ll discover that the trust you build is priceless. We don’t have to tell you that knowing someone has your back–no matter what–can make all the difference!
We charge nothing for an initial consult, so you have nothing to lose. You may be ready to file. You may not be there quite yet. We understand that.
Either way, you’ll come away from your free consult feeling more confident and less stressed. Isn’t that the way you want to feel as you approach this critical decision?