Thinking of Filing for Divorce? With the New Year comes New Beginnings. Many people are looking to make a change in their relationships. Before one makes a rash move, there are some things that one needs to consider before heading to the Courthouse.
1. Be Sure You Really Want to Get Divorced
While this may sound self-evident, sometimes the decision is more complicated than it seems. Divorce is full of emotions and you need to make sure this is the right thing you want to do. Filing for divorce is a big decision, and generally, there is no going back once you sign and file those papers. A party needs to be absolutely sure that they want a dissolution, as it will change their life. It is important to remember that if your case proceeds far enough, to trial, or termination of status, a Judge will inquire of both parties whether “irreconcilable differences” exist, and whether “any amount of counseling” could save the marriage. Rather than consider these things at a point mid-litigation, it is important to consider these items in advance to ensure one has a definite plan.
2. Discuss Options With Spouse
If you are sure you want a divorce, it is important to remember that divorce is not a “one size fits all solution”. There are many ways that your case can proceed. Sometimes, a frank discussion between parties prior to filing the case can reduce litigation, acrimony, and lead to a settlement, which saves both parties time and money. It is always worth noting that if there can be a complete or partial settlement, one’s case can proceed much faster than if one goes the litigation route. In some situations, private mediation may also be an option; but if you cannot agree to things with a mediator, then it is time to interview attorneys.
3. Gather All Financial Documents
Irrespective of whether you are a millionaire, or just making ends meet in the expensive Southern California market, a dissolution does involve your finances. The policy of the state is that both parties are to divide assets and debts equally. As such, you will need to know what is going on financially – to reach a good settlement – and to proceed with your case. Again, before filing for divorce, make sure you gather all the documents you will need for your case. Gather all your financial account records, bank statements, tax records, mortgage statements, insurance, 401K, list of all assets, credit cards, including any shared online accounts. Know what you and your spouse have and make copies of everything before meeting with your attorney. A good idea is to put together a simple balance sheet showing your assets and debts. Once your spouse is served, things change quickly, and items that you may have had prior access to may become difficult to obtain.
4. Child Custody/Pet Custody
If you have children or pets, it is also a good idea to discuss or consider how you want to share custody of your children or pets; both legally and physically. If one cannot reach an agreement as to custody for children, one will have to attend Family Court Services (“FCS”), a mediation service run by the court system. During such sessions, it is important to have an idea of how one wants to share custody or wants the custody arrangement to be, so one can articulate it to the mediator, and ultimately the Court. Similarly, under the Family Code, orders can be made as to custody of animals, much in the same way as custody of minors can be split.
5. Know What Your living Situation will be
Again, like most of the above steps, planning is everything. When one files for divorce, things change. It may not be tenable for one to stay in the former community residence, or it may be better to stay in a “nesting arrangement”. Like most things in a dissolution, planning is everything; and in such cases, it is best to speak with friends, family members, and experienced legal counsel.