So your spouse just advised you that he/she wants a divorce. In most cases this is not a total surprise, but usually one spouse is much further along in the emotional and logistical process than the other. So if you are still at the starting line, here’s a few things to do right away:
First, get a recommendation for an experienced Family Law attorney that practices exclusively Family Law in the county in which you live. Talk to friends who have gone through this, or to professionals such as accountants and other lawyers that you know. Get a few names to consider.
Second, set up a “consultation” with at least one of those lawyers. Most attorneys charge for this and it is money well spent. You will spend approximately an hour going over your case and what to expect. Information is your best ally and the unknown is scary. A comprehensive consultation will provide knowledge and predictability.
Third, start compiling key documents like tax returns, deeds, investment account, retirement account, pension, and bank statements. Copies are fine, you do not need the originals. Put them someplace safe, perhaps at a friend or relative’s house.
Fourth, if you have children start thinking about what type of parenting plan would be in their best interests. This may difficult and may change over time, but try to prioritize what will cause the least disruption to their lives.
Fifth, think about whether mediation is good alternative. If you and your spouse have the ability to be “civil” and discuss matters amicably, a quality mediator can save both you a lot of money and emotional trauma.
Sixth, engage a therapist to help you through the emotional difficulties to come. Divorce is an extremely traumatic life event, and professional help is integral. Your friends and family, and even your clergy, are not fully equipped to guide you through this difficult time.
Drew Molotsky, Esq. is a shareholder and partner at ALBFRM, PA in Haddonfield, NJ and has over two decades of experience in all matters related to family law. Drew has met the rigorous criteria to become a Certified Matrimonial Lawyer by the Supreme Court of New Jersey and is also a Court-approved Rule 1:40-4 mediator. Drew is included on the Family Court’s roster of mediators for economic aspects of family law cases in Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties.