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Six Steps to Take Before Filing for Divorce


During divorce, emotions can distract from rational thinking and planning. The very decision to divorce is often a heated and frustrated intention. It can be difficult to think ahead, but planning is critical before you file paperwork. Remember, this is a life-altering decision just as changing career paths, moving to a different state — or even getting married. The same careful planning you take in those situations should be considered when prepping for a divorce. 

Here are six recommended actions to take before filing a divorce complaint:

1.  Document finances. During the divorce, paperwork begins to disappear. It could be innocent (i.e. The other spouse has taken paperwork for copying), or it could be devious (He/she doesn’t want you to know the balance). Preserve copies of three years of tax returns/W-2s, a year of paystubs and statements for accounts, retirement, and debts. A credit report is advisable. Move copies off-site, possibly to a trusted relative’s home.

2.  Pay debt. Consider using marital funds to pay marital debt in your name before separation in order to avoid debt issues in divorce. However, obtain legal advice before paying debt by liquidating retirement funds because those funds often involve penalties and tax liability.  

3.  Protect the irreplaceable. Move sentimental items out of the residence. Grandma’s rocking chair, craft the kids may have made, or a cherished family piece of jewelry should be protected from a would-be retaliation prior to filing paperwork. 

4.  Investigate new living options. Think about whether you will be able to afford the marital residence during and post-divorce. Researching other options (location, cost) is a good first step. Just consider all avenues critically and avoid rash decisions. Again, a planning meeting with an attorney is important. Custody and possession of the residence can be negatively affected by moving without planning.

5.  Open a new email. Attorneys communicate cost-effectively via email. If your spouse has access to your email (by password or shared cloud), establish a new one.

6.  Be prepared to discuss custody. In cases with minor children, custody disputes are the most frightening part of the separation. Work with a lawyer before the divorce to develop a custody proposal.

Family law attorneys certainly understand it’s difficult to plan ahead and often divorce filings take place prior to the completion of most of these steps. However, even accomplishing a few things on the list can set your divorce case (and your emotional state) in the right direction. You may even discover during it is best to wait to file.

Contact our divorce attorneys at Pollock Begg Komar Glasser & Vertz LLC prior to filing for divorce and we can also address your individual situation and any additional actions which might be beneficial. 

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