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What Papers Do I Need to File to Begin Divorce Proceedings?

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If you are in the midst of a separation and contemplating divorce, you may want to know what you need to do to begin the process. Divorces are difficult, emotional, and time-consuming. When you end a marriage, the parties must consider and address many issues and concerns as you work to complete the divorce process. Although you may initially want to handle a divorce independently, contact a divorce attorney for consultation and advice on how to best move forward.

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Should You Hire a Lawyer for Help With Your Divorce Case?

Yes. A divorce can get contentious, and you have legal rights dictating custody, finances, and marital property issues. To protect those rights and not overlook vital aspects of a divorce that can cause challenges for you down the road, contact a divorce attorney for help.

The other party to the divorce may already have representation for themselves. You may not get a fair outcome if you attempt to go forward without a lawyer advocating for your rights. Additionally, hiring a lawyer gives you much-needed guidance through the divorce process. A lawyer can also provide a different and outside perspective and valuable insight as you deal with the matters most important to you.

Filing a Divorce Petition

To begin any divorce, a petitioner must file a petition with the court to end the marriage under the law. A divorce petition is the first paper often filed in a divorce proceeding which puts the court and the other party to the marriage on notice of the intent to end the marriage and the grounds for the divorce. As part of the divorce petition and with the help of your attorney, you may file additional supporting documentation that addresses common matters that require a resolution, such as custody, finances, and property.

After consultation with your attorney, you can discuss your stance on certain areas and what you are ultimately requesting as part of the dissolution of marriage. In the initial petition, you may not know the specifics, such as support amounts or property value subject to division. Still, you can include a generalization of what you are claiming as part of the divorce.

Division of Assets

During a marriage, it is likely that a couple can accrue various assets, which can be subject to division per the divorce laws applicable in your state and any existing marital agreements. As part of preparing a divorce petition and anticipating the case moving forward, you will want to identify all known marital assets to your attorney. Additionally, you may address if you believe any assets are at risk as the divorce proceedings are underway.

Marital assets can include:

  • Cash
  • Bank accounts
  • Valuables
  • Real property
  • Personal property
  • Investments
  • Joint business ventures
  • Benefits

Custody Arrangements

When a marriage involves children, one of the top priorities in a divorce petition is the temporary custody arrangements as you work through the divorce. As the divorce moves forward, many parties seek permanent custody arrangements.

Custody issues can often stir up emotions and are one of the hardest aspects in most cases during a divorce. A lawyer can help you address your children’s needs and their best interests as they help you prepare the petition or counter-petition for divorce in your case. Additionally, your attorney can discuss with you and guide what you wish your custody arrangement for your children to look like as you move ahead following the divorce.

Financial Support

Monetary support in a divorce can include spousal support and child support. Not every case involves financial support. When you hire a lawyer, they can help you review all issues in your divorce and if you have a right to receive financial support or if you may need to pay support. Your lawyer can help you calculate the amount of financial support you deem appropriate in your case so that you may discuss this matter further with the opposing party and the court as the case moves forward.

Financial support can depend on various factors, including the parties’ financial status, the parties’ standard of living, the earning capabilities of the parties, the duration of the marriage, and any pressing needs of the party based on their circumstances. As part of financial support, your attorney can also help you address insurance coverage and other benefits that may benefit either party to the divorce, including the children.

Documentation That Can Help as You Move Forward in a Divorce

A divorce can overwhelm anyone. It may feel insurmountable to think of all your concerns as you begin to take action and move forward with the process. A divorce attorney can provide you with the legal support you need, help you navigate the divorce, and organize your documents to prepare a petition and present your case. The best way you can help with your divorce proceedings is to take the time to gather all documentation and information you may need.

Documents to collect and present to your divorce lawyer may include:

  • Proof of Income
  • Proof of Assets
  • Accounting of Debts
  • Insurance Documents
  • Other Benefits
  • Retirement accounts
  • Investments
  • Business-related documents, if applicable
  • Real estate deeds and mortgage documentation
  • Living expenses
  • A prenuptial agreement, if applicable
  • Expenses relating to the children

When Is the Best Time to Contact a Divorce Lawyer for Help?

You can seek the help of a divorce lawyer at any time, but you should do so as soon as you think your marriage may end. If your divorce already started, contacting an attorney to help with your case can protect your rights moving forward.

The best time, however, to contact a divorce lawyer is when you are contemplating a divorce or you anticipate that your partner will petition for divorce. Even if you don’t know if you will divorce, discuss your situation and options with a family law attorney who can explain the laws and your rights. Contact a divorce lawyer today for a consultation to discuss your case.

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