If you have reached the point in your marriage where you have decided you are ready for divorce, you may feel ready to move full steam ahead with getting the process started. This is understandable, as couples who decide to divorce typically do so after many months, or even years of discord and animosity.
Turning the page on a fresh new chapter seems appealing, you might be eager to get started. Before doing so, however, it’s important to realize that divorce is a very serious decision – perhaps one of the most serious you’ll ever make. As a result, it’s important to think it through thoroughly. Ultimately, you won’t regret the extra time you spent making sure that the decision was truly the best one for your family and your future. Some helpful steps to take before filing for divorce include:
- Seeking Counseling: The importance and value of seeking counseling and advice from a qualified marriage and family therapist cannot be overstated. Often, couples who have reached a place in their marriage where they are contemplating divorce feel that counseling simply won’t help. In fact, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes, even when you think the relationship is beyond repair, counseling can help you to discover that it’s not. Having the objective viewpoint and advice of a third party can help both of you to see each other in new ways, and may help you to work toward compromise and healing that you didn’t think possible. Moreover, even if you do attend counseling and decide that ending your marriage is truly for the best, you will still both gain helpful communication and coping tools that will be tremendously helpful as you process the end of your marriage and move forward. If you’d like more information about counseling generally or need help finding a qualified counselor in your area, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy is a wonderful and helpful resource.
- Consulting an Attorney: This step is essential, and should not be overlooked. You should do so even if you think that your divorce will be a simple and straightforward process because you don’t have many assets, or because you and your spouse get along fairly well and can amicably resolve your issues. Often, there unexpected legal complications and nuances that can arise depending upon your particular circumstances that you may simply be unaware of. This is not to mention the fact that having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney advise you about the divorce process and all that it might entail will give you an important overall picture of what you’re getting into, and what you should prepare for. This is not to mention the fact that if you have been involved in any marital misconduct – an extramarital affair, for example – an attorney will be able to advise you as to how you may want to handle those matters, and the specific legal consequences they might have on the issues that are important to you. Read more about how to choose a divorce attorney here.
- Reconsidering Moving Out of the Marital Home: When you decide to divorce, it is understandable that one spouse might think that moving out of the home immediately is the best thing to do. While that line of thought makes sense to some degree, we would caution you to reconsider. The truth is that if the spouse who leaves the home is ultimately found to have done so without good cause, it might be considered “abandonment” in legal terms. Being found to have abandoned the marital home might lead to a finding of fault on your part that will lead to unfavorable decisions on alimony, child custody, and any number of other issues. This is not to mention the fact that once you leave the home, you leave your spouse with full control over all of the items in the home. Depending upon the level of animosity in your relationship, you may risk certain personal heirlooms being “lost” or destroyed. You may be unable to locate and salvage important documents, or other important items. There are ultimately any number of reasons not to leave the home until you have officially “legally” separated and have entered into an agreement accordingly. Of course, if at any time you feel that your spouse may become violent, or if you feel that your well-being or that of your children is at risk, you should leave the home immediately. Your safety always comes ahead of any other concerns. When you do decide to move out of the marital home, you can find helpful information about doing so here.
- Protecting Your Assets: Divorce can cause people to act in unexpected and unanticipated ways. That’s simply the truth about human nature. Even when you feel like you know your spouse well, he or she may start to behave uncharacteristically – they may do things you never thought they would. Sometimes, that unfortunately includes emptying your bank account, or selling off your personal heirlooms without your knowledge, or destroying and hiding important documents so that you can’t access them. As a result, before moving forward with the divorce process, it’s important to ensure that you have access to a steady stream of cash or a credit card that your spouse can’t control, that you’ve made copies of important documents, and that you’ve safeguarded any personal heirlooms and items that you don’t want to lose. Another way to protect your assets is to file a Lis Pendens in your local Deeds Office. This puts third parties on notice of your claim to have an interest in the real estate against which the Lis Pendens is filed, and will let other interested parties know that pending litigation may affect your real property. Another option to keep your spouse from disposing of any property behind your back might consist of obtaining an injunction restraining your spouse from transferring or liquidating the property. The wisest course of action in this regard would be to consult with an attorney who can help to assess your situation and let you know what actions might be best to take, given your circumstances.
Clearly, there is much to think through concerning divorce before you officially begin to move ahead with the process. Although all of these matters may seem overwhelming, with the right legal assistance and guidance, it is truly very manageable, even if it won’t always be easy. At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here to help the process go as smoothly as possible, and to provide you with the excellent representation you need, each step of the way.