During the holidays, divorce may be lingering in the back of your mind - but, if you are like most folks, it is probably not at the top of your "to do" list.
This is not to say that filing for divorce during the holidays is a bad thing. Actually, it is sometimes a good thing, or a necessary one. For example, you may need a temporary custody order to keep your spouse from leaving to Florida with your children "to visit family," never intending to return. Or, you may need a restraining order to keep your spouse from racking up an astronomical credit card bill for "gifts" he or she will end up keeping when you do divorce.
But these are, despite the rumors, relatively rare scenarios. Some folks will file for divorce and wait to serve, if local rules allow, until after the New Year. But most, having lived with a broken marriage for a long time anyhow, would rather wait for January, in those ripe few weeks between Near Years Day and Valentine's Day, to file.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season may even be a wanted diversion with family before this sometimes intense process called divorce begins.
However, even if you do want to wait for the new year to divorce, now is the time to plan. Here are the steps you should take now to make the process easier:
1. Consult a Mental Health Professional and/or Clergy - That's right; this divorce attorney is recommending you talk to a mental health professional or clergy member, or someone else you trust, about options other than divorce. Divorce can be, and often is, a difficult process, and if reasonable alternatives exist that can make you and your wife a happily married couple again, you should consider them. This may include couples' therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, religious education, or something as simple as planning a weekly date night. For marriages that feel irretrievably broken, hopeless, we often discover mental health issues, substance abuse issues, or both, are the culprits. Medical treatment may be necessary, and, certainly, the support of a spouse can make recovery easier. Even if it is just to prepare mentally for the divorce process, consulting with a professional earlier is a must.
2. Gather Financial Documents - All of your bank accounts, credit card accounts, retirement accounts, investments, etc., will be valued during the divorce process. Depending on when you acquired them and what you did with them, they may remain yours. But, even if they do, you must still identify them. So start now. These records have a funny way of "disappearing" when one spouse files for divorce, so extra copies are a good idea. Copy, at a minimum: your last five years' tax returns; your last year's worth of bank and credit card accounts, investment statements, retirement statements, and so forth. If you can save these to a flash drive for your attorney to download, all the better.
3. Make Your Budget - Whether you have children to support or just yourself, you should plan for emergency and extra expenses now. These include filing fees, attorney fees, housing expenses (more on that next), health insurance you may have to purchase, etc. Build in an emergency fund, if possible, for vehicle repairs, last-minute health expenses, and so forth, but do not make it too large - the larger the reserve, the more you have available to pay as alimony. You, and your attorney, will want to know how much you have to work with so that you select the most appropriate long-term option.
more to follow...