Divorce is never easy. From the initial filing of the divorce papers to how to find a divorce lawyer and ultimately reaching a resolution with your former spouse, the divorce process can feel overwhelming. To help reduce the daunting aspects of divorce, here are four steps you can take to prepare.
- It all starts with the paperwork.
The first step in the divorce process is to file your divorce papers. A copy of your divorce papers is filed with the state and another served to your spouse. The divorce papers set the official date for your separation to begin and starts the clock on the timeline for the court to process and finalize your divorce. Following this initial filing, it typically takes up to six months for the divorce to be finalized.
Divorce papers are only the beginning of the paperwork that will be required during the divorce process. You’ll need records of all your assets, including bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments. It can also be helpful to have tax records for at least the past three years on hand. You’ll need to gain a solid understanding of your marital estate, which is everything acquired during your marriage, as well as your financial situation.
- Take a hard look at your financial situation.
Divorce can be a blow to your credit. Before starting the divorce process, it can be helpful to get a copy of your credit score and clear up any outstanding debt. Also try to avoid incurring any additional debt. It’s best to keep your assets as liquid as possible during the divorce proceedings. If you don’t have one already, consider opening a credit card in your own name, as well as a checking, savings, or other bank account. Use this account to start putting aside money for legal and other divorce-related expenses if you can. If you don’t want your spouse to know about your accounts, you can get a P.O. Box.
- Determine if you need a divorce lawyer.
Is hiring a divorce lawyer necessary? The simple answer is no, a divorce lawyer is not necessary to get divorced. That being said, divorce is generally a far smoother process with a lawyer than without one. From helping to file those first divorce papers to ensuring the terms you and your spouse ultimately agree on are legally sound and properly filed with the state, a divorce lawyer can be major asset. Even if you’re filing uncontested, an uncontested divorce lawyer can provide guidance and help see you through the process.
- How to choose a divorce lawyer.
You can get the names of local divorce lawyers from a variety of places. A quick Google search for a West Palm Beach divorce attorney turns up over 260,000 results. You can also ask for personal referrals from others who have been through a divorce. Beyond your immediate friends and family, other lawyers, accountants, medical professionals and clergy members can be sources of referrals. Half of couples therapists’ cases is due to infidelity. Your local bar association can also provide names for local family law lawyers.
When receiving referrals, ask questions about the lawyer. Does he respond to emails or phone calls promptly? Is his staff friendly and easy to talk to? Did the attorney take the time to answer all his client’s questions before requiring a retainer? Was the case resolved in the agreed-upon time frame?
Ultimately, which divorce lawyer is right for you is a personal consideration. For instance, if cost is a concern, you may need to find a low cost divorce attorney. Perhaps gender or age is important to you. Or location is paramount and you only want to work with a West Palm Beach divorce lawyer to make communication easier. Whatever aspects are most important to you, it’s best to determine them first, before you begin your search for legal divorce help.
Most of all, remember, you’re not alone. Two divorces take place every minute in the U.S. alone. While that statistic in itself may not be a comfort, there is something to be said for so many others having been through the process and come out the other side. Friends, family, counselors, and your divorce lawyer are all there to help and support you.