6 steps to take before you meet with a divorce attorney
So you think you're ready to divorce?
Everyone knows that there are seasons for fashion, for television, and for sports but it might come as a surprise to learn there are also seasons for divorce.
Family law practitioners nationwide brace themselves for the two divorce “seasons”– one at the end of summer break when children return to school and another immediately following the holidays. Some say, if you look at a graph of divorce filings, the pattern resembles a “Cat of Sadness,” with the resulting high seasons forming prominent cat ears.
Joking aside, we now find ourselves at the end of the holidays, weary from the insecurity of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and at the precipice of divorce season. Unfortunately, the strain of the pandemic has eroded many marriages to their breaking point.
If you, like countless others, have made the difficult decision to begin the divorce process, consider taking the following steps, even before you consult with an attorney.
1. Review the Colorado state court website. Let’s face it, navigating the court system is anything but straightforward. In Colorado, 73% of domestic relations litigants do not have attorney representation. As a result, the state has developed several roadmaps for litigants to follow. Since the process is complicated, we encourage you to seek guidance from a reputable attorney. Whether or not you hire an attorney, though, the state court website is a valuable resource to familiarize yourself with the requirements and terminology of divorce. Access the state court’s domestic relations flowcharts, overviews, and forms at: https://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_List.cfm?Form_Type_ID=108
2. Assemble your financial documents. In divorce, no financial stone is left unturned. Compiling an accounting or your current assets, debts, income, and major expenses before filing will make life easier. You and your spouse will be required to exchange financial disclosures within 42 days from the start of the case. Gathering this information is often daunting and time consuming. Starting to do so before you file will save you time and frustration in the long run. If possible, bring 1-3 years of tax returns to your first meeting with an attorney. Your income tax returns will give your attorney the overview of your finances.
3. Prepare a budget and prepare to stick to it. Divorce is expensive, whether you hire an attorney or not. The same income stream that once supported one household, will now need to support two. Consider preparing a budget of what you will need during and after the divorce to afford your day-to-day life, such as housing, childcare, and food. Factor in litigation expenses because even if you don’t hire an attorney, you will pay court filing fees, parenting class fees, and mediation fees.
4. Enlist a therapist or mental health professional. If the pandemic has not persuaded you to seek the support of a mental health professional, an impending divorce should. Mental health plays an enormous role in divorce – for better or for worse. During a divorce, your behavior is on center stage and angry text messages, or even worse, a domestic violence incident, will not only cost you embarrassment in front of a judge, but may cost you time, money, and privileges. With the rise of virtual counseling, such as Talkspace and BetterHelp, you have resources to find the right mental health professional to support you during your difficult time. Keep looking until you find the perfect therapist for you. Interestingly, the same concept applies to finding a divorce attorney. Fit is important.
5. Stop using social media. There is no upside to social media during a divorce, period! Even if you barely login, refraining from using social media before filing may save you from inadvertently stumbling upon emotionally challenging content, or keep you from writing an embarrassing post. Remember, no amount of account privacy can keep your Facebook from being discoverable in court.
6. Take the time to envision life after divorce and set attainable goals. Most importantly, take time to do some soul-searching before initiating a divorce. While divorce is unpredictable, the most successful clients have clear, measurable, and reasonable goals for the outcome. These goals will probably change throughout the process. Divorce requires sacrifice but should not be a zero-sum game. Envision a life where you, your children, and maybe even your spouse, are happy post-divorce. You have the opportunity to fashion a new life on your own terms, even if it does not always feel that way. Choose positive thinking.
Taking these small steps to prepare yourself for the difficult divorce process will help you move forward with greater confidence and ease.
Kaela Zihlman, Senior Associate Attorney Griffiths Law, PC. Kaela’s practice focuses on complex financial divorce matters, premarital agreements, and appeals.
Anastasia Evans, Associate Attorney Griffiths Law, PC. Anastasia’s practice is focused exclusively on family law related matters including divorce, parental rights, post-decree disputes, and child support matters.
(Sponsored content for this article provided by Griffiths Law, PC)