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What to Do Before Filing for Divorce

Filing for divorce is a significant life decision involving complex emotional and legal processes. Before uttering the word “divorce” to a spouse, consider several steps before filing. Also, take some time for self-reflection regarding your decision to ensure it’s the right choice for you.

Divorce can have long-lasting effects, so evaluating your emotions, motivations, and future goals is important, especially when minor children are involved. Typically, divorce won’t solve all your problems but will change them. Don’t threaten divorce until you’re ready to file.

Obtain the Best Legal Advice and Representation Possible

If divorce is your intended action, consult an experienced family law or divorce attorney. The advice and guidance you receive will help you understand the legal process and how to manage your circumstances. When filing for divorce, there are rights, obligations, and many potential outcomes. It’s best to prepare for all possibilities.

A divorce is not a time to cut corners or trust that your spouse is being truthful about everything. Be suspicious if your spouse advises you not to seek legal counsel and promises to play fair, as it’s a sign they probably won’t.

Organize Your Documents

An efficient approach during your divorce can save you money. Presenting document copies orderly to your lawyer will help facilitate their actions without high administrative costs. Collect and organize important documents such as:

  • Marriage certificates
  • Pre or post-nuptial agreements
  • Bank statements
  • Proof of income
  • Investment statements
  • Tax returns
  • Property deeds
  • Vehicle titles
  • Retirement account statements
  • Life insurance policies
  • Credit card statements
  • Mortgage statements
  • Itemize your belongings
  • If applicable, self-employed or owned business information
  • All other evidence relating to assets, debts, or custody arrangements

Review your documents to understand your financial situation, including assets, liabilities, income, expenses, and investments. If you struggle with financial literacy, consult your attorney or a financial advisor to help assess the financial implications of divorce and plan for your future.

Short-Term Financial Resources

Be sure to have sufficient available funds to pay for expenses for a minimum of three months if, as a spouse, you have limited access to financial resources. Often a spouse will become spiteful when divorce begins and may try to cut you off financially. While a family law attorney can help you get financial support, it will take time.

Protect your assets if you anticipate property, financial, or custody disputes. Video or photograph valuable jewelry or collections. Avoid making large financial transactions or acquiring new debt before filing for a divorce.

Ensure you have available credit if a spouse cuts access to your credit card when filing for divorce. Available credit will fund your short-term living expenses while your attorney works to get court orders regarding temporary financial support.

Consider Mediation

To avoid the adversarial nature of a courtroom divorce, consider resolving issues amicably via mediation. Many mediators are retired judges or family law attorneys who can provide a neutral environment for communications and negotiations. Aside from being less adversarial, mediation is less costly than a divorce in court.

Prioritize Children

Focus on the wellbeing of your children and how best to reduce the impact a divorce may have on their lives. If adults can conduct themselves without acrimony, children will remain better balanced as you create their new normal.

Make plans to divide parenting time with the other parent but don’t involve the children. Involving children in custody and parenting issues harms their emotional health. Don’t ask them to take sides, as it’s unfair and will create problems for them.

If children are old enough to express their opinions regarding living arrangements, a judge, mediator, or guardian ad litem can bring their custody arrangement preferences to the appropriate people at the right time.

If There is Any History or Risk of Domestic Violence, Have a Safety Plan

Unfortunately, aggressive behavior or violence may escalate when you choose to leave your spouse. Depending on the history of your marital exchanges, filing a protection order immediately (unless necessary) can turn your divorce into a highly contested case.

Spouses that use a protection order as a weapon will prompt negative and contentious responses. Still, if domestic violence is a real concern, your attorney can advise you on how best to move forward for your protection and the protection of your children.

Don’t Move Out Without a Temporary Parenting Plan

Custody of minor children is usually a legal advantage. Unless an immediate separation is necessary, it’s smarter to remain with your children until achieving a temporary parenting plan.

Stay involved in your children’s lives, including contact with their teachers, counselors, doctors, and other professionals. If custody becomes an issue, it’s crucial to maintain being an involved parent. Keep your children and yourself surrounded with supportive family and friends. You may also consider seeking emotional support from a therapist or counselor.

Assess living arrangements to determine where you’ll be staying in the future and consider its impact on your children, financial situation, and overall wellbeing

Change Your Passwords

Divorce can bring out some untoward behavior in adults, and spying or investigating personal devices is one of them. Change all relevant passwords to something your spouse is unlikely to guess. This action will protect your accounts, finances, attorney-client communications, and possible future fraud. Post-divorce, you may also need to make changes to estate planning documents.

Rely on Your Divorce Attorney

A competent divorce attorney can assess your situation, explain the relevant laws, and provide personalized advice based on your circumstances. Advising you of your rights, obligations, and possible outcomes will empower you to make informed decisions.

Your lawyer can advocate for you during negotiations, settlements, child custody, and support. They can help you assess your financial situation and provide guidance to protect the equitable division of assets, debts, and other financial considerations.

If needed, your divorce attorney can represent you in court, presenting your case and advocating for your interests before a judge. They’ll handle legal procedures, file necessary documents, and argue on your behalf to ensure your rights are protected and your voice is heard.

Going through a divorce can be emotionally challenging. Knowing the steps to take before filing can ease some of the strain and help position you for the best outcomes. Although your divorce attorney is primarily your legal advisor, many are empathetic. They can refer you to emotional support systems to help keep you steady as you proceed with a divorce action.

This article summarizes aspects of family law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact our Houston office today at (713) 582-5088 or schedule a consultation.

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