When we think of bad words we usually think of words that begin with F or S, we do not think of a word that begins with D – Divorce. But, Divorce is a word that is more shocking to hear for many people than one of those other words.
Maybe you never thought you would hear the D-word from your spouse or maybe you thought you would never utter the D-word, but here you are and there is no escaping it. Your marriage is over and you want to file for divorce, but where do you start?
You are overwhelmed by the impending changes in your life, let alone determining how to start the divorce process. You are possibly experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety, or blame. You have many thoughts running through your head and consuming the hours that you should be sleeping: what did you do wrong?; why couldn’t you keep your marriage together?; how could you let your children grow up in divorced family?; how are you going to afford to live without your spouse’s income?; what will people think when they find out that you are getting divorced? All of these questions and the related feelings are normal, but they make the process of filing for divorce that much more complicated.
There are some things that you should know before filing for divorce. Here are a few of the important things:
- The first thing to recognize is that a divorce is a complicated proceeding that has implications on all areas of your life. It will impact your children (if you have children) and your ability to support yourself and your children. Divorce often impacts whether you can remain in your home or if you have to move. It will impact your short and long-term savings, including retirement savings, and, as a result, how long you will work, if you work outside the home. If you don’t work outside the home, it may impact whether you need to work outside the home and, possibly, obtain additional education or training before you do. Due to these far-reaching implications on almost every aspect of your life, I do not recommend attempting to represent yourself in your divorce proceeding. There are complicated laws that address child custody and support, alimony, equitable distribution, and other related areas that you will need to navigate in your divorce. If you represent yourself you could short-change yourself and your children. At a minimum you should consult with a reputable family law attorney.
- Before filing for divorce you should sit down and consider what you want from your divorce. I recommend that you review your financial status, including your income, budget, assets, and liabilities. If you have children you should also think about what type of parenting time arrangement you think is in your children’s best interest (the standard the court uses). Also consider what types of expenses that you have for your children, such as child care, sports and extracurricular activities, and any particular medical or special needs of your children. I find that the best way to determine what you want is to gather relevant documents and write out a road map to follow when you do meet with an attorney.
- You may wish to protect yourself financially before filing divorce. Depending on your financial circumstances there may be steps that you wish to take to preserve assets and ensure that your expenses are paid timely so that your credit is not impacted. Prior to making any changes to your financial scheme I recommend that you consult with a family law attorney to avoid your spouse filing an application/motion with the court early in the divorce litigation, which can be costly and create unnecessary contention.
- It is likely that your emotions and your spouse’s emotions are running high. I recommend trying to keep your emotions in check and avoid arguing, if possible. The divorce process is highly emotional and strong emotions may cause you/your spouse to act out and argue, which in turn may cause more animosity in your divorce. More animosity usually makes it more difficult to be level headed and sit down and attempt to work out an amicable resolution to some or all of the issues in your divorce. Amicably resolving some or all of the issues in your divorce is often in your best interest because litigating a divorce has significant financial and other costs (your time, the added stress, missed work).
If you have questions about filing for divorce and how to prepare, see a family law attorney. If you are not yet ready to meet with an attorney, you may wish to see a counselor to discuss how you are feeling and if filing for Divorce is the right next step for you. If, however, you are not ready to file for divorce, but your spouse has filed for divorce, you should consult with a family law attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you are protecting all of your rights.
Melissa Knoerzer, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Adinolfi, Molotsky, Burick & Falkenstein, P.A. and specializes in all aspects of Divorce and Family Law, including those families with special needs children facing divorce or family law issues.