7 Things to Do Before Filing for Divorce

May 11, 2017 / 8:00 pm

It’s rare that we hear divorce described in a positive light. We use terms like “messy divorce,” “ugly divorce,” “painful divorce.”

Then again, why shouldn’t we? The collapse of a marriage is bound to be messy, ugly and painful. It’s an emotional time, and one when letting our feelings cloud our judgement can have dire consequences.

You can avoid those consequences by slowing down and taking careful, measured steps and speaking with a divorce attorney in Bucks County before proceeding. Here are seven things you should do before filing for divorce.

1. Consider counseling

Start by finding a marriage counselor. Even if counseling can’t fix your marriage, it can help you build a support system and learn more about yourself, so that you don’t repeat the patterns that led you to a divorce in the first place.

2. Study your finances

Husbands and wives should get a clear picture of the family’s financial situation before filing for divorce. That means getting a hold of tax returns, investment accounts, bank and credit card statements, the balance of your mortgage and all other assets and liabilities.

Think about what the family would need in the future? Is your job secure? Does your spouse have their own source of income? Make a budget for your post-divorce life so you aren’t hit with a lot of surprise bills that you can’t pay.

3. Think of your children

If you got divorced, which custody arrangement would work best for your children? Think about how much time you spend with your kids, and how much time they spend with your spouse. Many divorces are ending in shared or joint custody. We’ve written more detailed blog posts about how custody arrangements work in Pennsylvania.

No matter what arrangement seems right, remember that your children should come first. Decide on a custody arrangement that benefits them, not on one that punishes your spouse.

4. Talk to a divorce attorney

And not just any attorney. Speak to someone with experience in divorce and family law, and who listens and understands your goals. Talk to them about the cost of a divorce proceeding.

5. Think about your home

Do you want to stay in your house? Allow your ex-wife/ex-husband to stay there? Sell it? Keep in mind that there are some very good reasons for not leaving your home. For one thing, if you move out and your spouse pays the mortgage while the divorce is pending, the court may use that when considering how property should be distributed.

Moving out can have a negative impact on your case. Don’t do it without first talking with your lawyer. An important exception here is for cases of domestic abuse. If you feel unsafe, take whatever steps you need to protect yourself and your family.

6. Document everything

Make sure you have copies of all key documents: tax returns, spousal earnings, bank statements, retirement accounts, life insurance and wills. And consider keeping a diary. Track any issues the court should be aware of: domestic violence, harassment or parental alienation.

7. What’s your plan?

Where do you want to be a year from now? In five years or 10? Your divorce will have a major impact on you, your spouse, your kids and your extended family and friends.

Think about your support system. List the friends and relatives you can trust to have your back. Keep in mind that they may all often conflicting – if well-meaning—advice.

If you’ve gotten to the point that you’re ready to seek legal advice, contact the divorce attorneys at Penglase & Benson.

Our lawyers have spent years making sure our clients best interests are represented in court. Get in touch today to learn how we can ease what is often a painful experience.