Divorces are beyond overwhelming for most people. It can be helpful to take overwhelming tasks and break them down into a smaller, more manageable list. Here, I’d like to take a moment to give you a brief checklist of what you need to be thinking of when you are planning for your divorce case. I’ll write this in the form of a list for you, with a few examples of how to think about each item. We can start by breaking everything up into three categories, then going deeper into each one as needed. Be aware, many of the answers inside each item will require you to consult with an attorney. My goal here isn’t to answer every question you could have about the topics. Here, I am just trying to give you a framework of what you should consider, and what items need to be planned for.
1. What to do about your living situation.
A. Where do you need to live immediately.
– When you get divorced, there is always the awkward time period between deciding to go through with the process, and when the legal process actually plays out. For some people, the answer to this question isn’t a big deal. Perhaps you get along well enough with your spouse and are fine living together. For others though, this can be a huge deal and often the most important issue. You have options available, either in the form of forcing the other parent out of the home or in moving out yourself. This can be a delicate situation, so you should talk to an experienced family law attorney to get a grasp on what you need to know, and plan for, with respect to how to handle your temporary living situation during your divorce.
B. Where do you need to live after the divorce is finalized.
– Having a plan for shelter after the divorce can help you formulate your plan for what goals are most important to you during the divorce process. Some people wish to stay in their home, perhaps to give the children continuity. Others want to sell the marital home and use the proceeds to buy their own place. Yet others are locked into a lease in their apartment. These are also issues that can have as many different solutions as people have unique situations. An experienced divorce attorney can help you think through this and develop a solid plan for your situation.
A. Paying bills immediately.
– If you rely on your spouse to pay bills, you can be placed into an awkward situation during the divorce process. It is a good idea to figure out early what your unique circumstances look like. This may require you to call on family and friends to hold money in case you need some as a backup, for if your spouse suddenly cuts you off. This may require you to dip into a savings account. A big part of planning for your divorce will be to sit down early and look at your finances and figure out what you need for the few months your divorce may be pending. If you need money from your spouse to get by, consulting with an attorney can help you understand the options that exist to force money into your pocket during your divorce case.
B. Planning for long-term finances.
– Equally as important as the short-term plan, is setting goals and creating a budget for what your financial life will need to look like after the divorce. Divorces are one of the most devastating financial events in most people’s lives. Often, the answers you get are scary. People can be stuck in the situation of knowing they need to leave their spouse, but having no idea how they will get by financially once the divorce is done. Sitting down and mapping out a real budget of what you absolutely need to get by can help you and your attorney formulate a plan for ensuring you get what you need most.
3. What to do about parenting children.
A. Temporary parenting issue.
– This is often the most aggressive fight parents have during a divorce. Immediately upon a divorce starting, parents will frequently engage in a tug of war for the children. Both parents try to establish themselves as the main parent, and this results in a lot of stress and legal conflict. The first thing you need to do when facing a divorce involving children is call an attorney experienced in custody and be prepared to discuss with them your goals, and talk details of what you think the children’s immediate circumstances should look like. This is particularly true with high conflict divorces, or with divorces involving safety concerns for one parent.
B. Long-term parenting plans.
– One of the first questions I ask potential clients is, what plan do they think is best for their children to follow. There is a loose formula judges like to use, but this cookie-cutter approach leaves your unique circumstances out. If you work nights, you might want to have the other parent watch the children in the evenings most days. If the other parent is violent, you may need their time to be supervised. The first thing to do is to write down what you think, with as much detail as you can, your parenting schedule should look like with your children for the years to come.
You may also find our article Before, During, and After Divorce to be helpful, check it out.