There is no question that divorce is a difficult, complicated process. Individuals going through a divorce must wade through mountains of documents, answer a flurry of questions, and in some cases, endure years of litigation before they receive their final decree. However, there are steps a divorce client can take to help the process flow more smoothly. When it comes to a lawsuit, preparation and organization go a long way.
Prepare Ahead of Time
One of the more complex processes in divorce is discovery. Parties to a divorce exchange documents, including bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage documents, deeds, and titles. Discovery can also involve the disclosure of text messages and emails. Once your spouse requests these documents, you will have a small time frame in which to produce them. To help this process along, begin preparing your documents as soon as possible. Access your bank accounts and credit cards online and download PDF files of your statements in chronological order. Find copies of deeds, titles, insurance policies, and loan documents. Gather records relating to your child’s school, such as enrollment forms, tardy notices, discipline records, and report cards. Write out a list of household bills, debts, and income. Make note of who handles what in the marriage, such as paying bills, doing household chores, or taking care of the children. Be prepared to answer detailed questions about finances, property, debt, responsibilities, and family history.
Consider Your Goals
This may seem like an obvious one. If you are filing for divorce, your goal is to not be married anymore. However, there are other issues that need to be resolved besides the actual dissolution of the marriage. Before you meet with your attorney, make a list of your goals for your property, debts, and children. This will help guide the conversation so your attorney can more efficiently advise on the best resolution for your case. Consider the following non-exhaustive list of issues before your meet with your attorney:
- Will the marital house be sold? If not, who will live in it? Who should be responsible for the mortgage?
- How should the bank accounts be divided? Should the joint accounts be closed or transferred to one spouse?
- Who gets the furniture? What personal property should be sold? What items do you want to keep, and what items don’t matter to you?
- Does each spouse have their own car? Who pays for the insurance? Is there a lien on the car? If so, who should pay it?
- Is one spouse entitled to spousal support after the marriage has ended? Why and how much?
- Do you have money from an inheritance or gift? Have you kept this money separate or intermingled it with the marital funds?
- Who incurred more debt during the marriage?
- Who should pay the debt?
- Should the joint credit cards be closed or transferred to one spouse?
- Do you want to be the primary caregiver? What schedule do you think is in the children’s best interest?
- Can you and your spouse exchange the children without conflict?
- Are there issues with your or your spouse’s family or friends interfering with the children that need to be addressed?
- Does your spouse have substance abuse issues that need to be addressed before they can safely have time with the children?
- What is your work schedule like? When do you spend the most time with your children now? What is their school and extracurricular schedule like?
- Do the children have special needs that necessitate extra financial assistance?
- How much can you contribute financially for the children’s care?
Making these decisions is not easy and giving yourself more time to consider them will reduce stress, maintain focus, and help the process flow more easily.
Help Your Attorney Help You
Remember that time is money. Most divorce attorneys will charge for their time by the hour. The more time they have to spend organizing your documents, chasing you down for missing items, and calling you for responses to their questions, the more it will cost you in time and money. Answer your attorney’s phone calls and emails as promptly as possible. If you feel as though you always miss their call, ask to set up a phone appointment. Come to your meetings with your attorney prepared with your questions. These steps will help the divorce process flow more smoothly.
Talk to Hammerle Finley
If you are considering a divorce, speak with the team at Hammerle Finley Law Firm, which includes experts in divorce, child custody, real estate, business, and estate planning. Reach out today to schedule a consultation in person, via Zoom, or via telephone with one of our experienced attorneys.