Contemplating a divorce? There are some things to do now to prepare for the divorce. My helpful list below is not exhaustive and may not apply to everyone. Even if a divorce petition is never filed, the list can help improve the marriage.
1. Communicate with the other spouse. Communication is key! Not communicating can lead to major problems. When I first started working in family law, a partner at my then law firm would always advise his clients who were contemplating a divorce to go home and speak with the other spouse. He would advise them to tell the other spouse all the things the other spouse could do to save their marriage, but that would also mean the other spouse would do the same. So, the parties would both hear from each other what they each needed to save the marriage. Sometimes we never heard from the person again, presumably because the communication saved their marriage. Never underestimate the power of communication!
2. Make an appointment with a marriage counselor. If there is a breakdown in the communication, a marriage counselor can help! Even if a divorce is contemplated, it may be wise to hire a therapist to assist with the communication during the divorce. This would be especially helpful if children are involved. When children are involved the communication does not stop when the divorce ends, communication must continue until the children graduate from high school (but even then, the communication will continue through adulthood). It is important to establish good communication skills before a divorce and during the divorce. Good communication skills can eliminate many conflicts!
3. Learn to co-parent with the other spouse. Co-parenting, what is that? Co-parenting is the sharing of duties when raising a child. Co-parenting is hard, especially for those spouses who take care of all the family affairs and for the children. Often it is viewed as letting go of control. But I view co-parenting as something very positive…an opportunity for the spouses to share in the decisions, to share duties and responsibilities for the children, and to give the one party who has been carrying the lion share of the work for the children a break.
4. Gather important documents. The important documents to gather vary depending on the family finances. There are income documents that show a party’s income, wages, salary, or commission. Those documents include paystubs, W-2, employment contracts or offers of employment, commission/bonus structures, and 1099’s. Other important documents include those that show the balances in financial accounts, i.e. retirement accounts, investment accounts, savings accounts, checking accounts, and 529 plans. There are many other important documents to gather…those named above are just a few! 5. Consult with an attorney. When contemplating a divorce, it is important to understand the process and options available. A traditional litigation divorce is not the only option! There is the collaborative divorce process, which is a client-driven process where the focus is on problem solving and resolving the divorce amicably. Do not get information from a google search. Instead, consult with an attorney and get the information directly from a trained legal professional. Even with the stay-at-home orders in place for the pandemic, attorneys are still scheduling initial consultations remotely using video technology.