Here are five things to do before you take that first step towards dissolving your marriage to protect yourself and your family:
- Get a handle on your finances – Make any efforts you can to be sure you know where all your assets are and what they are worth before you take the first step in dissolving your marriage. Once you file for divorce, you will have to produce documentation of your assets. So, before you begin the process, we suggest you gather the most recent statements from your investment accounts, retirement accounts, and a year’s worth of credit card statements and three years of tax returns. You’ll also want to collect pay stubs for the past three months and a year’s worth of checking account statements (to help establish the expenses each of you have). The first thing that happens in a divorce is that the court requires you to present financial affidavits. These must be filed within 90 days of the complaint. If you do it ahead of time, it’s less stressful. The other reason for doing this early on is to make sure your spouse doesn’t dispose of any documents before you’ve had time to collect them. Lastly, if you have any online accounts, make sure you get the passwords before you file. Otherwise your spouse may change them, cutting off your access.
- Consult with professionals about telling the children – The end of a marriage will have an impact on your children. You want to know the best way to talk to them about your divorce to minimize this. So, before you file, we suggest consulting with a child therapist, psychologist, social worker or school therapist. It’s preferable to do this with your spouse and to do it before news of the divorce gets out. You want your children to hear about it from you, not their friends. We also suggest you let the school know about the situation. That way they can keep an eye on your children to flag any behavioral problems. In addition, make sure the school has updated contact information for each of you so you both stay current with any school-related matters.
- Interview several divorce lawyers – We recommend you look at two or three matrimonial lawyers before you make a decision to hire one. Your attorney will be your guide and your counselor through this difficult process. You want someone who is experienced in divorce law, matches the approach you’re most comfortable with and feels like someone you can talk to. Your divorce attorney is someone you’re going to be talking to a lot. He or she will be helping you through a tough time. You want someone whose personality you get along with and who you can speak openly with. Lawyers come in every shape and form. Each has their own way of approaching a divorce. Make sure their way is the most comfortable for you. Some clients want a more aggressive approach right from the start. Others say “That’s not for me. I want this to be done in a cooperative way.” Or you may want to try a more cooperative approach to begin with, but if that doesn’t work, you want to have an attorney who can transition to a more aggressive approach.
- Become familiar with the divorce process in your state – It’s important to know something about the divorce process before you file. This helps you interview the attorneys you’re considering and to understand what you’ll be experiencing as you go through it. In addition, by reading up about divorce on-line and in publications, you’ll be able prepare a list of questions as you interview potential lawyers to represent you. You don’t want to come into those meetings cold. Also, you’ll want to specifically read up on Connecticut’s divorce laws so you know what the process is all about. You’ll be a lot less frightened and nervous about it if you do this.
- Have a strong support network behind you – The divorce process can be stressful and lonely so make sure you’ve got a strong support network in place. It helps you get through the process. The network might include friends, family, therapists and even your primary care physician. These are people you know you can talk to; people know you can rely on. And don’t be afraid to ask for their help. In the long run, it will make you stronger. Also, you need to take care of yourself as you’re going through the process. Having people to support you makes that part easier too.
The divorce process is tough. It’s the end of a marriage. The end of a chapter in your life. And the lives of your children. Preparing for that journey before you take that first step will give you the strength and support to get through this difficult time.