How To Prepare For Divorce

Article Summary:

As long as you do not feel threatened in your current relationship, start preparing for your divorce by collecting personal information and financial paperwork. This includes gathering bank account statements, retirement account information, and an updated credit report. In addition to collecting financial accounts, hire a reputable divorce attorney to ensure the legal process proceeds as smoothly as possible.

Most people don’t get married with the thought of divorce in mind. Sometimes neither of you realize how far you’ve drifted apart until one fateful fight. However, once you do realize divorce is the best option, it’s best to be as cooperative and prepared as possible.

Before your divorce is finalized, collect your financial documents and hire a divorce lawyer. Even though the divorce process is notoriously expensive (especially with attorney fees), proper preparation can save you a lot of time and financial upsets. In this article, we’ll discuss what finances must be collected, the benefits of retaining a divorce lawyer, and how to prepare for your post-divorce life.

How to prepare for divorce

In the end, divorce is an emotional and stressful process, no matter how prepared you are. Not only can the proceedings get messy, but you also need to collect a lot of paperwork—more than you might expect.

Though every divorce case is different, almost every case will require the following:

  1. A divorce attorney
  2. Financial documents stating what you owe and own
  3. Proof of your income

1. Look for a divorce lawyer

Divorce laws vary greatly from state to state, so it’s important to have a lawyer by your side. They can help guide you when it comes to matters of divorce preparation, filing fees, and knowing which financial records are required in order to process a successful divorce.

Every divorce lawyer will have their own specialty and track record. It’s best to get a lawyer who has a record of success and still allows you to remain under budget.

Pro Tip

Call a domestic violence hotline if you are worried about the soon-to-be-ex physically harming you. Several organizations offer pro bono divorce assistance for people under extreme duress.

What should you do if you can’t afford a lawyer?

Fortunately, there are many resources available to spouses who cannot afford a divorce attorney. There are several organizations that are dedicated to helping spouses file for divorce in the midst of a domestic dispute, many of which do not require an income to qualify.

For low-income individuals, you may have a court-appointed attorney assigned to your case to hammer out any visitation and custody decisions. In some states, the court may even require the more well-off spouse to pay for both spouses’ divorce attorneys. However, this is often not the case and shouldn’t be your only option.

If these options are not available to you and you have reasonable credit, taking out a personal loan is always an option to pay for attorney fees.

2. Collect financial documents

There are two major issues that come with divorce: figuring out what you owe and what you own. Let’s take a look at how to work with both issues.

Find out what you own

You will need to show what you have in both individual and joint bank accounts. This will likely require you to subpoena your partner for their bank accounts, credit card statements, and retirement accounts.

You will also have to review the paperwork that covers the following topics:

  • Jointly-owned marital assets. These can include your house, your cars, as well as life insurance policies. All marital property and assets will be in this category of paperwork.
  • Individual bank accounts. If you have a joint savings account, remove yourself and your share of the funds from it and place the money in a separate personal account. On a similar note, you will need to show paperwork related to investment accounts and savings accounts for each party involved in the divorce.
  • Retirement accounts. The 401(k)s and pensions all have to be divided up alongside other marital assets.
  • Assets held abroad. The U.S. court system also allows you to split assets held abroad. In fact, they’re part of what gets divided between both parties.
  • Tax returns. This is the most accurate depiction of you and your spouse’s joint income. Your lawyer will be able to determine spousal support and child support from these papers.
Pro Tip
Legally, your spouse cannot hide financial accounts from you during the divorce process. If you have reason to believe that they are hiding anything using a new account, tell your attorney.

Find out what you owe

Part of every divorce is dealing with the debt incurred over the marriage. This means that you will need to locate and submit receipts for the following things:

  • Medical bills. Dental and medical bills are high these days. It’s best to get every receipt possible. If you have joint health insurance, you may want to talk to the insurance company about the price of continuing insurance after divorce.
  • Credit card bills. You might also want to remove your name from card accounts at this point. This may protect you from debt or being held liable if your partner decides to max out the cards during the divorce.
  • Mortgage statements and loan statements. Your monthly loans will be a major part of your impending divorce.
Pro Tip
If you have loans that could be related to child custody or housing, tell this to your divorce lawyers. On a similar note, you should separate bank accounts as soon as you’ve made the decision to divorce. Do not hide this from your spouse or your divorce lawyer.

Additional personal information

As well as financial papers, you’ll want to collect all documentation on pretty much everything.

  • Married life. This includes your marriage certificate, contact information of the individuals who signed your certificate, reason for divorce, and also any dates and times you attended sessions with a marriage counselor. Even if you attended sessions alone, add this information.
  • Child’s information. If you have any children, you’ll want to collect all of their information as well. This includes contact information for any of the child’s doctors and teachers, birth or adoption certificates, a record of any child support you may be receiving, and even a calendar listing custody and visitation dates.
  • Divorce information. Before divorce even came into question, you may have documentation regarding you and your spouse’s relationship. These may be restraining orders, prenups, or even a separation agreement.

3. Determine each party’s income

Your most recent tax returns and pay stubs are what will influence alimony and child support. So, make sure that all those W2’s get rounded up. It’s important to ensure that no income is hidden from the parties involved.

While you’re at it, it’s important to create a post-divorce budget. In some cases, a divorce lawyer can also help act as a divorce financial strategist. In other cases, you may have to consult a financial advisor, a family member, or a friend who’s gone through it for help.

If you are not employed, start searching for jobs

It’s important to recognize that you will live on your own, regardless of whether you receive an amenable settlement agreement. You will probably need to get a new job or start a business, even if you receive both child support and alimony.

Unless you are certain to walk away with millions of your own assets, you are going to have to figure out a way to support yourself. Updating your resume, applying for jobs, and accepting freelance work can help.

Be prepared to be amicable with your ex

It can be difficult to handle financial matters and divide assets with an uncooperative ex, but it doesn’t have to be this way. To proceed through the divorce process as quickly and calmly as possible, it’s best to follow some of these steps.

  • Sit your soon-to-be-ex down and explain that you want an amicable divorce. Ideally, you will both want to work with a family law attorney for a collaborative divorce process. This means that you both agree to the terms, jointly fill out legal documents, and arrange custody with minimal interference from the court.
  • Try for an uncontested divorce. This means that neither party is fighting it and that both parties are ready for a post-divorce life.
  • Ask for a mediator. Mediation is generally the cheapest way to dissolve a marriage. It can help the entire divorce process go more smoothly, even if you both end up in court. A good mediator can help make the division of personal property easier and also improve child custody negotiations.
  • Behave above reproach. Your partner may have loved you, but divorce can make people do unexpected things. Do not do anything to jeopardize your children or their custody during this time.
  • Make sure that your social media accounts don’t show anything controversial. Divorce is an emotional process, which makes it easier to say things we don’t mean. Even if you really want to, avoid posting any controversial or harmful content on social media.

If you are being abused, reach out to a domestic violence shelter or organization.

If you are concerned that you will get hurt by your spouse, listen to your gut feeling. People with a history of spousal abuse are most likely to kill their partner when the abused party finally decides to leave.

Groups that can help you divorce your abuser

Financial abuse is common among abused people and spouses. If you need to run from an abuser, it’s best to work with a group that can help you find a safe place to live and allow you to cover your living expenses. Several sites make it easier to access affordable legal help, including the ones below.

Should you leave your home?

In most cases, you should not leave your home unless your lawyer has told you to do so. However, if you have reason to believe that you may be injured by your spouse, immediately pack your bags and go to a domestic violence shelter or a friend’s house.

Moving during the legal process of divorce can cause problems for your children’s school systems, not to mention issues with your marital home. In some cases, courts will see leaving the house as an abandonment of the home. This can cause you to lose your house.


How long can a divorce be put on hold?

This depends on local state laws, but a divorce can often be put on hold for as long as 90 days. There are other tactics spouses can use to prolong divorce proceedings. Depending on the divorce, it can take years.

How should you respond to divorce threats?

If your spouse keeps threatening to leave, it may be time to prepare for divorce. Next time they threaten, telling them that you are done may allow you both to decide whether it’s really over.

How do you speed up a divorce?

The only way to speed up a divorce is to make it as amicable as possible. When both parties are willing to separate joint accounts and other property with ease, most of the proverbial red tape disappears.

Do you always need to hire a lawyer to divorce your spouse?

You do not always need to hire a divorce lawyer or family law attorneys to obtain a divorce. If you are able to work together on the divorce, then you can file the legal documents yourself. The issue most people have is that they cannot get their soon-to-be-ex to agree with their demands. If this is the case, it’s best to hire a divorce attorney to help you settle any disagreements appropriately.

Key takeaways

  • The primary concern of anyone dealing with divorce is to think about personal safety first.
  • If you are not worried about the other spouse trying to harm you, then it’s best to start collecting financial documents such as bank statements and credit card accounts.
  • If you were a stay-at-home spouse, update your resume, plan a new budget, and start searching for a job.
  • The fastest way to speed up divorce is to do it amicably, via mediation.
  • There are multiple resources available to you if you can’t afford a divorce attorney.


View Article Sources
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  2. Divorce Information & Frequently Asked Questions —
  3. Marriage and Divorce — CDC National Center for Health Statistics
  4. Married Filing Separately, Jointly, or Single: Which Filing Status Is Best? — SuperMoney
  5. How to Pay Legal Fees: Options And Alternatives — SuperMoney
  6. Happily Ever After: Protect Yourself Financially — SuperMoney
  7. How to Pay for a Lawyer When You’re Short On Cash — SuperMoney
  8. How to Avoid the High Average Cost of Divorce — SuperMoney
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