We often get calls from prospective clients seeking advice in the event they decide to proceed with a divorce. The conversation typically starts as follows; “My spouse and I are not getting along and I am seriously considering getting a divorce. Right now I am not sure that I will actually get divorced but I wanted to know what should I do to be prepared if I choose to go forward with a divorce?” Each client has their own set of circumstances and the answer always varies. However, below is a basic universal list of things to do if you are considering a divorce.
1 Collect Hard Copies of Important Financial Documents. Being able to easily provide your attorney with financial documentation will save you thousands of dollars in attorney fees. Make two paper copies of your important documents such as, pay stubs, tax returns, bank account statements, investment account statements, retirement account statements, business records, mortgage statements, credit card statements and any other debts. Having records that go back 5 years is optimal but usually a year’s worth of documentation will suffice. You should make two sets of copies, one for your records and a copy for your attorney. While you are accumulating your documents keep the copies in a safe place away from the marital home. You may be able to keep the copied documents at a family member’s home or possibly at work.
2 Make a list of all of your assets and liabilities. This sounds obvious and should be easy if you have collected the documents that we suggested above. However, not all assets and liabilities are obvious or have regular statements. Valuables such as art work, jewelry, firearms, power tools, furs or furniture can have considerable value and not have statements or other documentation associated with them. We suggest you complete a room by room inventory to identify all assets and liabilities. If possible take digital photographs or better yet digital video of undocumented valuables. This is particularly important if you are considering leaving the marital home and you may have difficulty returning later.
3 Gather Your Personal Items. You want to make sure you have possession of your personal effects, such as prized family possessions, jewelry, antiques and anything that cannot be replaced. Consider keeping these items away from the marital home. A trusted friend or family member may be the best option. If neither option is available you may also want to consider a short term lease on a secure storage facility.
4 Educate Yourself. Being an educated litigant and knowing what to expect is very important. Being informed and realistic are essential to obtaining a fair and reasonable settlement with your spouse. Talking with friends and using the internet can be helpful, but be careful. No two divorces are the same so your friends experience with his or her divorce may not be relevant to your particular situation. The internet is a powerful education resource; however, not all information on the internet is accurate or informative. Start you research with trusted websites. The New Jersey Judiciary web site, Rutgers University Law Library and the New Jersey Child Support web site are all excellent on line resources. If you are using a computer that you share with your spouse you should be discreet and delete your internet search history.
5 Prepare to Live Independently. You should envision your life going forward without your spouse and plan for it. Consider opening your own individual checking, savings and money market accounts at your bank. Obtain a credit card in your name alone and do not allow a balance to accumulate on the card. Having ready access to a line of unsecured credit will be most valuable in an emergency or if you have an immediate need to separate from your spouse. Plan on making arrangements for the children in the event of a divorce or separation. Investigate day care and after care options in your community that work in your situation.
6 Develop a support network. Divorce is emotionally trying time. Those who fair the best emotionally are able to confide in a trusted friend, counselor, or therapist. If you are unable to confide in a trusted friend or counselor consider joining a local support group. Being able to “vent” and share your feelings and emotions can make all the difference not only emotionally but financially too.
The family law lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele regularly represent New Jersey residents who want a divorce in Camden, Mercer, Gloucester, Burlington, Cumberland, Atlantic, and Salem counties. For more information about NJ divorce, New Jersey property settlement agreements, uncontested divorce, or other family law matters, please contact us or call (856) 546-1350 for a confidential consultation. Our office is conveniently located on the White Horse Pike in Haddon Heights.