How to Prepare for a Divorce

lawyer consulting mature middle-aged couple - prepare for divorce concept

When marriages fail, people often hurry into moving out of the house and filing for divorce. When possible, and assuming it is safe for you to do so, take time to prepare for divorce, both with your spouse and an experienced family law attorney. This can make the process less expensive, lower-conflict, and easier on everyone involved – especially your children. And note that when it comes to telling the children, it is best to wait until shortly before separation and use a jointly-drafted script or talking points that you prepare with a child specialist at the helm, if at all possible.

How to Prepare for Divorce

Preparing for divorce requires attention to your physical, practical, financial, and emotional needs. If you have the luxury of taking your time and talking to a family law attorney first – even before you separate from your spouse – it can help make the process less worrisome, and make sure all your needs are met along the way.

Emotional Divorce Preparation

Divorce often involves anger, fear, sadness, and grief. Even in low-conflict cases, when both spouses know it is time to move on, the process of disentangling your lives isn’t easy. You should take steps to build up your emotional support structure before filing for divorce. This may include family members, confidants and close friends (who you trust not to make things you say public), as well a counselor or therapist. These are all people you can talk to about your divorce to help process your emotions without raising the cost of your legal fees. That way, when you are talking to your lawyer, you can focus on legal strategy, rather than how your spouse’s behavior makes you feel.

How to Financially Prepare for Divorce

Separating from your spouse is almost always more expensive than living together (unless, for example, you have a relative with whom you or your spouse can live temporarily). Whether you are in a two-income household, are the primary wage-earner, or depend on your spouse’s income, you should expect to tighten your belt during and after the divorce. At minimum, the cost of good legal counsel will be a new line item for your budget. Before moving out (or asking your spouse to move out), consider what your expenses will be going forward. Make a budget for your new household based on realistic costs of living (not necessarily the lifestyle you’re used to for a while - but don’t cut the expenses that keep you emotionally stable, like exercise and therapy). If you won’t be able to afford paying for everything on your own, your family law attorney may be able to help you negotiate for, or if necessary, file an early motion for temporary child support or spousal support, and for interim contributions to maintaining the family home, to help you through the transition.

Practical Considerations When Preparing for Divorce

While preparing for divorce you should also think about any practical considerations that may affect you or your children. Do you and your spouse share a car or a bank account? Who will control those after you separate? Do you need access to the children’s health insurance information or school portal? Gathering everything you need before one of you moves out, and making sure both parties have copies, can make things easier for you later on. There’s no need to hide these things from your spouse – doing so will only increase the cost of your divorce. But if you think your spouse is going to spend (e.g., gamble) your assets unless stopped by a court order, be sure to tell your family law attorney! They may be able to obtain a mutual asset and financial restraining order, but expect the restrictions to apply to you, as well.

Preparing Your Children for Divorce

You’re not the only one who will be affected by your divorce. If you have children (adults or minors), you should tell them that you are preparing to file early, rather than waiting until the Judgment of Divorce is final. Children who still live at home and even those who are at college or grown-up and living separately, will be directly affected at some point sooner or later by your separation, and need the stability to know that both parents will still be part of their lives. It is a good idea to discuss your plan for custody and parenting time with your spouse early – even before separating – so you have answers to the questions your kids will ask about where they will live, who they will see when, and how your divorce will affect their lives. However, even adult children need time to adjust to the idea of their parents’ divorce. Whenever possible, have this conversation together with your spouse, and present a united front that a divorce is what’s best for your family.

Preparing for Divorce Checklist

There are many steps you can take now to prepare for divorce in the future:

  • Identify who will remain in the marital home while the divorce is pending. Note that some people are able to “nest” meaning they alternate living in the marital home while the children remain in the home at all times.
  • Get copies of your deed, mortgage agreement, and any home equity loan agreements
  • Pull copies of the titles for each vehicle in either party’s name (boats, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles too!)
  • Download or make copies of your latest three months’ bank statements, investment account summaries, and 401(k) or pension statements
  • Gather statements for each debt, utility, or regular expense paid
  • Make sure you have access to school calendars, doctors’ appointments and extracurricular schedules for your kids
  • Make copies of the last 3-5 years of tax returns
  • Create a budget for living expenses during divorce
  • Build a support network
  • Plan a parenting time schedule for your kids
  • Discuss how household expenses will be paid during the divorce
  • Find a safe place to live if you will be moving out
  • Change your online passwords
  • Agree on a method of communication for divorce-related issues and child-related issues
  • Hire a family law attorney to help you prepare for divorce

Talk to a Family Law Attorney to Prepare for Divorce

At NSSSB, we want your divorce to be as easy for you and your children as possible.. Our Ann Arbor family law attorneys can meet with you even before you separate from your spouse, to help you prepare for divorce and make choices that will benefit you later in the process. Click here to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today.