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Top 10 things to do before a divorce


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1. Do think really carefully before you start the process. The decision will have a long term impact on your life and those around you. Never threaten to divorce until you are ready.  It will seriously injure your partner and he or she may simply start divorce planning, which could hurt you.

2. Get your documents organized. If you are more efficient, your attorney will be as well and you will save money.  Gather your past tax returns, bank statements, check registers, investment statements, retirement account statements, employee benefits handbooks, life insurance policies, mortgage documents, financial statements, credit card statements, trusts, Social Security statements, automobile titles, etc. If your spouse is self-employed, it is important to gather as much information as possible about the finances of the business. Make copies of any useful financial information stored on your home computer.

3. Think about your children and how best to reduce the impact of the divorce on their lives. If you remain very solid and stable, it will help them to do so as well. If you fall apart they will as well. Plan how you expect to divide the parenting time with the other parent. Do not pull the children into the conflict or ask them to take sides. It’s not fair and will simply create emotional problems for them.

4. Make sure that you have sufficient funds saved to pay for your expenses for at least three months if you are the spouse with limited access to financial resources. Many spouses become spiteful when the divorce starts and cut you off financially.

5. Obtain good advice from a respected attorney who is knowledgeable about divorce and families in your area. Research whether your attorney has the skills and reputation to assist you in the divorce. It is critical to have the best representation during this very tough time in your life. Check their ratings on websites such as Superlawyers.com, AVVO.com or Martindale.com.

6. Make sure you have available credit. Apply for your own credit card, because your spouse may cut access to your credit card when you file for divorce.

7. Have a safety plan if there is any history or risk of domestic violence. Understand that violence can escalate when you leave your spouse.

8. Possession can be nine-tenths of the law as regards custody of children. Unless there is a good reason to separate quickly, it is much smarter to remain with possession of the children until you work out a temporary parenting plan. Make sure that you know the children’s teachers, counselors, doctors and other professionals. The last thing you want is to have the school teacher tell an evaluator that they do not know what you look like and have never met you.

9. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends. You will need all the help and support you can get.

10.  Try to remain civil and treat your spouse with respect. You may have to attend weddings, graduations and funerals with them in the future. Avoid making statements in anger. Never send emails when you are angry or upset. These have a way of appearing as Exhibit A in your divorce case, especially when children are involved.

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Suzanne Griffiths

Suzanne Griffiths is Managing Shareholder at Gutterman Griffiths P.C. She can be reached at Suzanne@ggfamilylaw.com or 303-858-8090.

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