October 13, 2021
Maybe you are relieved that you are finally seriously pursuing a divorce, or perhaps you knew this time was coming and have dreaded it all along. One thing for sure is that divorce can come with many mixed and unexpected emotions. It can be draining in nearly every aspect of life, especially emotionally and financially. It can feel overwhelming and like it will never end. In these times that often seem out of control, it’s crucial to remember and focus on what you can control.
A divorce preparation checklist will not only help you ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to help your divorce go as smoothly as possible, but it can also give you back some control. Being prepared can make the entire process easier in several ways.
Now is the time to think clearly about your future, collect information, and make plans based on your needs and circumstances. Here are the most critical steps that everyone should have on their divorce checklist.
Consider and Make Housing Arrangements
Where will you and your children live during and after the divorce process? Who will pay for the new housing arrangements? Will one of you keep the family home? Be sure to also include housing arrangements when planning your post-divorce budget.
Consider Getting a Post Office Box
As soon as you know divorce is on the horizon, you might want to get a P.O. box at your local post office. This way, you can keep your private mail and documents confidential. You won’t have to worry about your mail getting lost or destroyed by a nosy future ex-spouse. If you will be changing your address during or after the divorce, getting a P.O. box can also help with this transition.
Consider Your Children’s Futures
Divorce is no less difficult for children. In fact, in many ways, it is harder. It’s crucial to determine and plan for any issue that directly impacts them. You will need to explain the situation to them in an age-appropriate manner. If possible, you and your child’s other parent should discuss the best way to do this before doing it together.
You will also need to determine:
- Who will have the primary parental responsibilities of the children?
- How often will the parent without primary custody see the children?
- Who gets the children for birthdays, holidays, school breaks, and summer vacations?
- Will anyone need to pay child support, and if so, which parent?
- How much should child support payments be?
- Who will contribute and in what amount for their college savings?
Identify Your Assets
Assets that you brought into the marriage, inherited during the marriage, were gifted to you during the marriage, or are protected as yours in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement will remain yours after the divorce. However, if you don’t identify these assets as yours and prove that they are yours, you might lose them in your divorce. Make a list of assets that are yours, why they are yours, and detail any related proof of why they are yours- such as a deceased relative’s will or your prenup agreement.
Hire a Reputable Divorce Attorney
Do some research about divorce attorneys in your area. Learn more about them and select the one you think best fits your needs. Perhaps you need someone who has an excellent track record with custody issues or someone who is extremely compassionate; don’t settle for legal counsel that won’t give you what you need and want during this difficult time. Take the time to tell your attorney about your needs and demands so that they can work to safeguard your legal rights and act according to your interests.
Seek Emotional Support
With any difficulties life brings, having someone to talk to can be invaluable. Your many options depend on your needs and budget. You could seek help from a professional counselor or therapist who has experience helping clients dissolve their marriage. Some people may feel comfortable and supported talking to their friends or others they know who have been through a divorce. Still, others may seek the help of family members or maybe a combination of these support options. The important thing is that they are getting the support they need, no matter where it comes from.
Organize Critical Paperwork
You should gather and keep all paperwork necessary for your divorce in one place. It’s also a good idea to make copies or digitally store these documents in case they get lost or a vengeful spouse takes or destroys them.
Paperwork you should collect includes:
- Bank and other financial statements
- Property deeds and titles
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Prenuptial/postnuptial agreements
Establish Your Credit
If you haven’t already, now is the time to establish a credit history apart from your soon-to-be ex-spouse. You won’t be able to rely on their credit after the divorce. You also don’t want any financial mistakes they make on joint accounts to reflect poorly on your credit report. You should also obtain a copy of your credit report at the beginning and the end of your divorce. Open your own bank accounts and credit card accounts. Use your new P.O. box as the address for these accounts.
Change Your Passwords
If you don’t already have an individual personal email account, set one up. If you already have one, change the password for it. You will also want to change passwords for all other websites or apps you use so that your spouse can no longer access them. Protecting your privacy should be a priority. Ensure that you are using passwords that they won’t be able to guess.
Planning for this process with a divorce preparation checklist will help you restructure your lives after the big decision. While not every step in this checklist will apply to every divorce, most of them are crucial. They will help you be prepared and feel more in charge of the chaos that might be going on around you. If you aren’t sure if some of these steps apply to you or feel like there are steps you might be missing, be sure to reach out to an experienced divorce attorney for help as soon as possible.