You have decided to file for Divorce . . . now what?
The decision to file for divorce is an extremely emotional one. It is never spontaneous, and is always the result of serious and thoughtful considerations. Likewise, the process of actually filing for divorce should be carefully thought out and planned. Jumping into the divorce “deep-end” is not the best option; dipping your toes in the water and slowly immersing yourself in the legal process will prevent you from quickly sinking and getting in over your head.
The first thing to do – even prior to hiring an experienced divorce and family law attorney – is to gather documents about your finances.
· This includes finding out details about your money: Where is it kept? Who has access to it? What are the account numbers? What paperwork must you fill out to obtain statements for the past three years? With regards to retirement accounts, the analysis will be the same: Who is in charge of investing our funds? Have any withdrawals been made recently? How can I obtain information regarding past investments, contributions and withdrawals?
· You will also want to run a credit report to determine whether there are credit cards or loans in your name that you are not aware of, and also to see just how many open balances there are. Gather past account statements and determine who to contact to obtain additional ones, if necessary.
· With regards to your home, make sure you know where the mortgage is held, what your monthly payments are, how those payments are made (i.e. direct transfer from a separate bank account) and what the outstanding balance is. Does this payment include taxes and insurance? Are there any outstanding property taxes due?
· Next, you will also want to make a list of all of your monthly expenses: Who provides the cable, Internet and phone services, whose name are these under, and how are they paid? What about electric and heat? How is health insurance paid and how much do you spend each month on prescriptions for yourself and for the family?
· With regards to the children, if any, what activities are they enrolled in, how much do these cost, and who is billed for them? Are any of the activities automatically deducted from a bank account or charged on a credit card?
Second, you need to obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate. If you can’t find your original, contact the town hall in the city you were married in and they will explain the process. Unless you were married outside of the United States, the Court will not allow you to file your Complaint for Divorce without your marriage certificate (unless there are emergency circumstances present, in which case the court may allow you to file the certificate late via a Motion.)
Third, create a plan of action. If you have funds readily available for retaining counsel, or even if you have to proceed with Limited Assistance Representation, schedule a consultation with a dedicated divorce lawyer. During your meeting, discuss the divorce process in depth, review potential problems that may arise given your specific circumstances, and also create a homework list for things that need to be completed prior to or immediately following the filing of your Complaint for Divorce.
Making the decision to file for divorce is the first, and sometimes hardest, step towards resolving your family law matters. Doing your “homework”, seeking experienced legal assistance and becoming informed about the divorce process will ensure that you stay afloat in the dark and often tumultuous waters of the legal system.
(c) 2014 The Law Office of Leila J. Wons. The information contained herein is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship and does not constitute legal advice.
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