Divorce can catch people off guard. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you and your spouse have been discussing the end of your marriage, or you intuitively sense that a divorce might be imminent, preparation is crucial. This preparation isn’t just about the practical aspects, but also involves handling the emotional side of things. The steps below will help you protect your interests and get ready for the upcoming legal process.
Table of Contents
1. Process Your Feelings
Although it’s not a typical lawyer’s advice, I strongly believe it’s essential to emotionally prepare for the journey of ending a marriage, no matter how long you’ve been together. Start by rallying your support network – friends, family, your therapist, your running buddy, and others. Make them aware that you might be facing some tough times in the upcoming months. It’s your choice how much detail to share, but having the people who usually support you aware of your situation can invite extra understanding, kindness, and patience during this challenging period.
Next, take the time to grieve the relationship. Going through a divorce is seldom easy; it’s often emotionally taxing. It’s a traumatic event, and it’s entirely possible that you may be dealing with this situation while also learning to cope without your usual support network – the very person you’re divorcing. This is a significant adjustment, and my advice is to take it step by step.
2. Hire a Good Divorce Attorney
The second step in your divorce preparation involves seeking legal assistance. Finding a divorce attorney, you can trust and communicate openly is essential. They enable you to ask questions freely, ensuring you’re well-informed about the process.
Divorce in Illinois, contrary to popular divorce myths and belief, is not as simple as dividing everything we own by two. A divorce case often entails many complex legal and equitable issues that are carefully deliberated in divorce courts.
Right from the start, a good divorce attorney will discuss your top priorities and devise a plan to negotiate these with your spouse or their legal counsel. Their role extends beyond court navigation, they also protect your marital assets from potential harm due to the divorce. They can also conduct thorough investigations into your spouse’s use of marital assets, their contribution to the marital estate (as well as your contribution), all of which contribute to an equitable settlement of your marital estate.
Understanding the legal complexities that influence your marital estate is beyond the realm of a layperson – that’s where a skilled divorce attorney comes in. You won’t know what to look for or even be aware of unless you’re familiar with how law intersects with all aspects of your marital estate.
3. Be Financially Prudent
Considering an impending divorce, my third piece of advice would be to practice financial prudence and avoid going on a spending spree. Now is not the time to make massive financial moves. Hold off on buying that new house, or the motorcycle you’ve been eyeing. Stick to paying your bills and living a routine life. You’ll have ample freedom to spend your money at the conclusion of your case. The initial phase of divorce is not the time to start living lavishly with shared bank accounts or those held in your name alone. If part of your coping mechanism involves a significant expense, such as joining a specialty gym, consult your attorney before making such purchases, to understand any potential impacts on your case.
4. Organize Your Documents
Let’s move to the fourth step – gathering and organizing your essential documents. This includes documents dating back at least two years prior to the date the divorce action was filed. Gather your bank statements, tax returns, income statements for both yourself and your spouse, and records of any marital accounts. If you own or co-own any real estate, make sure you have documents indicating their value, as well as any mortgage statements. If you have joint bank accounts, consider discussing with your spouse about how to divide and close these accounts. This way, you can focus on negotiating over the assets and accounts solely in your control. But remember, if you can’t reach an agreement on what to do with the funds in your joint accounts, it’s best to wait and discuss it with your attorney before taking any action.
5. Talk With Your Kids (Together)
The final step (but not least) is a tough one if you have minor children. Divorce often comes as a surprise to children, marking a high-stress period in their lives. It’s essential for you and your spouse to sit down with them together and explain that though your marriage is ending, both of you will continue to love, support, and remain a part of their lives. Assure them that divorce does not necessarily mean saying goodbye. If your children are already in mental health support or treatment, work with their providers to lessen the impact of the divorce. If you require co-parenting therapy to settle arrangements or adapt to a more divided parenting routine, don’t hesitate to engage with a family therapist sooner rather than later. Co-parenting therapy may not be suitable for everyone, but it can be immensely beneficial for parents dealing with high-conflict situations, bringing simplicity and resolution to issues relating to their children.
So, there you have it. If you’re considering divorce or think that your spouse might be, keep these steps in mind. They won’t make the process completely easy, but they’ll certainly help you be better prepared for the challenging road ahead. And always remember, you’re not alone in this journey – a capable divorce attorney and your support network are there to guide and assist you through this difficult time.