When you have made the decision that divorce is right for you, it’s important that you take steps to protect yourself and your family. Being organized, keeping records, and preparing to discuss your life with your attorney usually help. The decision to end a marriage should never be made lightly, regardless of challenges you and your partner may be facing. Divorce should be considered with a very cool head and especially if minor children are involve given time to make sure it is the right course of action. Once the decision to file for divorce has been made, it is extremely important that men begin preparing themselves for the tough legal road ahead. The way in which you begin a divorce will depend on your relationship with your spouse and the laws of the state in which you live. Some states allow for legal separation, while others view a marriage as legally valid until a court rules otherwise.
In some cases, you may choose to petition the court for divorce without an attorney, while in others legal representation is important to a successful outcome. Spouses may also choose mediated divorce or collaborative divorce in order to minimize conflict and reduce attorney fees. These are some of the factors to consider;
• Save Money: Getting married can be an expensive endeavor. Getting divorced is even more expensive. That’s why it’s so important to save as soon as you know you’re getting divorced. The court considers any money you earn while married to be marital property and subject to equitable division between you and your spouse. However, you can open a separate bank account and have your paycheck deposited there to ensure your spouse doesn’t spend that money frivolously before the asset division process. You should also cut back on unnecessary expenses to increase your savings for divorce proceedings. This can help you manage your finances in the future, as well. Remember, you’ll be living on a single income after your divorce.
• Document Everything: All divorces must go through a financial disclosure, even uncontested divorces. The court does this to make sure finances are split equitably and to make determinations about alimony and child support. Because you know you need to provide this to your attorney during your divorce proceeding, start planning now by keeping track of your family finances. This includes both your income and spending and that of your spouse. Keep your credit card statements, your bank statements, tax returns, receipts, and other bills.
• Prepare For Custody Decisions: When you have children of the marriage, it’s important to not only prepare them for the lifestyle change but to prepare yourself for custody determinations. Not all divorces require a heated battle over children, however, it’s better to be prepared than caught off guard. Keep a journal of time spent with your children and who takes them to school, to extracurricular activities, and to social events. This is not a competition to see who the better parent is. By keeping a record, though, you have documentation to provide your attorney and the court that could help them in making a custody determination.
• Hire An Attorney: Unless you and your spouse agree on absolutely everything and you have a truly uncontested divorce, do not try to be your own attorney for your divorce. Because this is a complex and time-consuming legal process, you need someone you can trust to help you protect your rights. Meeting with several divorce attorneys in your area can give you an idea of who you feel most comfortable with. This is a personal process and your attorney will need to know everything about you, so you must feel comfortable speaking candidly and openly with them. No one enters a marriage expecting it to end in divorce.
• Research the Divorce Laws In Your State. Every state has its own laws regarding the dissolution of marriage. Once you have decided what method of divorce is best for your situation, you should educate yourself on the requirements for divorce in your state. Some states have “no fault” divorce, which means that you do not have to prove that either spouse did something wrong. Some spouses may seek a divorce based on fault, which can include cruelty, adultery, desertion or confinement to prison. Depending on the state in which you live, your property may be divided as community property/separate property or through equitable division. In community property states, all property accumulated during the marriage is considered marital property and is divided evenly. If you owned property before the marriage that property is considered separate property and it is not subject to division. If you live in an equitable division state, a judge will try to decide what is fair and may not divide the property evenly. The guiding principle in all states regarding custody is a determination of what is in the best interest of the child. Most states have resources for parents to help them develop a custody agreement and parenting plan.
• Gather Financial Documents: A large part of a divorce proceeding deals with the division or marital property. When preparing to file for divorce, you should gather the following financial documents:
I. Federal and State income taxes for the previous five years.
II. Paystubs and/or payroll statements.
III. Documents concerning your retirement accounts, such as 401(k) plans, annuities, IRAs or other pension or retirement information.
IV. All insurance policies, including life, auto, health, and home.
V. Deeds for property or contracts for leases.
VI. Any documents showing debt, including mortgage statements, student loan debt, loans, or credit card statements.
VII. Documents showing all bank accounts, including check books and bank statements.
VIII. Documents showing household expenses, such as rent, utilities, food and clothing
IX. Household budget information.
X. If you own a business, you should also gather all business documents detailing profit and loss
• Locate Divorce Forms For Your State: Most states have downloadable forms on their state court websites to simplify the divorce process. You can locate divorce forms for your state by conducting an internet search with the name of your state and “divorce forms, search state court websites for divorce forms or call the court clerk. If you are unable to locate the forms online, contact the court clerk and ask them where you can find the specific forms.
• Retain an attorney for specific tasks: Even if you choose to handle the majority of the divorce yourself, it is highly recommended that you at least hire an attorney to review any agreements pertaining to the divorce. As discussed above, you can locate an experienced family law attorney by a personal recommendation or by using state bar association’s attorney referral resources.
Filing for Divorce
• Determine where you can file for divorce: Most states and counties have residency requirements that establish where you can file for divorce. You must file for divorce in the appropriate county or your case may be dismissed.
• Fill out the appropriate legal document to commence divorce proceedings. States have different names for the document used to initiate divorce including: summons; petition for divorce; or complaint for divorce. This document should have been included in the divorce forms that you previously gathered. Generally, these documents will require the following information:
I. Contact information for both spouses.
II. Date and place of marriage.
III. Information specifying residency and jurisdiction.
IV. Information regarding children, if any, including parentage, names, birth dates, and current custody arrangement.
V. Information specifying assets and debt.
VI. Information specifying the grounds for divorce
• File the document with the appropriate state court. Typically, you will file your divorce petition in the county court where you reside so long as you meet the residency requirements discussed above. You should follow the rules for your specific court or contact the court clerk and ask what you need to do in order to properly file your divorce action.
• Pay a filing fee. Most courts will require that you pay a filing fee to commence an action. You should bring the fee in the appropriate form to the court at the time of filing. You may also be able to file for a waiver of the fee.
• Serve the divorce petition on your spouse. After you file the divorce petition, you must legally provide a copy to your spouse in a manner set forth by state law. It is imperative that you properly serve your spouse or your divorce petition may be deemed invalid. Generally, methods for service of process include:
Personal service, which means that a person over the age of 18 personally hands the document to your spouse and fills out an affidavit describing the service. Depending on the state, process servers can include friends, family members, professional process servers, or law enforcement personnel.
Service by mail. Many jurisdictions allow you to serve parties to a lawsuit or divorce by mail. Typically, you would send the document by U.S. mail, “return receipt requested,” so that you can demonstrate for the court that the document was delivered to the residence of your spouse.
If you are unable to locate your spouse, some jurisdictions will allow you to serve by publication. This may mean that you are required to publish a notice in a newspaper where you believe your spouse resides. Most likely, you will be required to publish the notice over a course of weeks or months
• File proof of service. After serving the petition, most courts require that you file a document demonstrating proof that your spouse was properly served. It is very important that you submit this document because it is often used to start the time period for when your spouse has to file a response. Typically, you should be able to locate the proof of service form in the same location that you located the divorce forms.
Things Not To Do When You Divorce
Don’t Get Pregnant: Having a baby during your divorce complicates a lot of things, and could even hinder your right to divorce. Although many states now grant single parents the same rights as married ones, having a child when you’re in marital limbo can be problematic.
Don’t Forget to Change Your Will: Getting divorced does not automatically revoke a will. If you want to prevent your soon-to-be-ex-spouse from receiving the monies and privileges granted them in your will, you need to update your will. You can re-do a will at any time. But if you die before you are granted a divorce, and you have left your spouse nothing, he or she can sue and recover part of your estate.
Don’t Dismiss the Possibility of Collaborative Divorce or Mediation: In a collaborative divorce, you can get the help of professionals attorneys, divorce coaches and therapists, to divide property and manage emotional stress. Some critics of collaborative divorce believe that attorneys, divorce coaches and therapists who engage in collaborative divorce are not really experts, and cost too much time and money. But the majority of jurisdictions with collaborative divorce have stated that collaborative divorce is more cooperative and less adversarial than traditional divorce. Mediation is different. Only one third-party professional, a divorce mediator helps you and your spouse reach an agreement. Mediation is more of an ongoing process than a one-time intervention. Although lawyers are generally not allowed into mediation sessions, you can consult a lawyer at any time during the process to make sure you are getting the right result.
Don’t Sleep With Your Lawyer: It’s easy to get close to the one person who is on your side. But it’s also a big mistake. Some states prohibit all sexual activity between an attorney and client. Other states allow an attorney and client who had a sexual relationship before the case to continue the relationship. In either case, sleeping with your lawyer can compromise your attorney-client communications because you may be charged with adultery for the infidelity.
Don’t Take It out on the Kids: Children need a supportive environment to deal with divorce. Minimize the amount you talk about the process. It will give you more time to be there for them. Refocus your energy so you can attend their school and after-school events, help them with homework, and take them out once in a while to the movies or the zoo. When you are relaxed, they get more relaxed. Though you should be comfortable talking with your children about the divorce, the point of this divorce is to relieve stress on you and your family.
Divorce Lawyer Free Consultation
When you need to plan out your divorce, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506