Whether it is you who have decided to pursue a divorce, or your spouse has made the decision to pursue a divorce, either scenario is daunting. What you do in the next 15 days is important in preparing your case.
Get A Lawyer As Soon as Possible
It doesn’t need to be the first thing you do, but you should absolutely find representation to help begin this process. A lawyer will make the realities of divorce seem less threatening and guide you through the process. Without a lawyer, it is easy to become overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next.
Know All Your Finances
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to know your finances. If you are the one deciding to get a divorce, it is a good idea to sit down and start collecting information regarding the bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts and finances involved in the marriage. This way, you can tell your lawyer what savings the two of you have, the outstanding debts, the retirement funds, and what your former partner earns. Another reason this is a good idea is because it will save you time (and attorney’s fees) in trying to track down accounts. If you see the writing on the wall of the relationship failing, it is a good idea to begin to collect this information, if you were not aware of it prior to the failing relationship. If you are unaware of the finances involved in your marriage, there are means that an attorney can take to find out this information.
Think Before You Post on Social Media
The only person who needs to hear the details of your side of the story right now is your lawyer. It might feel good to embarrass your ex with a tell-all post or revenge photo, but I can guarantee you that those will most likely end up being used against you in court, and depending on the nature of the post/photo, be used to gain a Non-Harassment Order.
Save Everything, But Keep Your Cool
That exceptionally mean late night text your ex sent you? Screen capture it. The phone log showing you had an hour-long conversation on Saturday night where you talked about the kids? Screen capture it. Bank statements, tax statements, and email conversations from before and after the breakup. All of those are valuable in telling your side of the story. Save them and give them to your lawyer – not your friends. I cannot emphasize how important it is to document. But be careful to think and review whatever it is you are thinking of sending to your ex prior to actually sending it. Just as easy as these documents can be used to assist your case, they can also be easily used against you.
Minimize Contact with Your Ex
You are separated, whether it was by choice or not, so it is best to leave all communications with your ex to your children or trying to reach a resolution. Remember to establish boundaries, let your lawyer do the hard work, and keep contact to a minimum unless it involves discussions about the children. Then I would encourage you to communicate with your ex regarding the children, but make sure to keep the conversation solely limited to exchanges, activities for the children, and decision-making for the children. If the communication starts taking a negative turn, try to get the conversation back on track or reiterate that all communications are for the children and should be focused on what is best for them.
Take Account of Your Allies and Support Systems. Then Lean on Them.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to find a support system. Consider who your friends are, who can help you in a pinch, who could watch the kids in case of an emergency, and who you can talk to when you need to discuss what has been going on. Family members, close friends and acquaintances will help you through this time.
Take Care of Yourself
Divorce is a hard and draining process. I cannot state enough how important it is to take care of yourself. You, and your case, will benefit from you taking care of yourself.
ABOUT SHARIE ALBERS
Sharie Reyes Albers is an attorney in Offit Kurman’s Family Law Practice Group. Her practice includes adoptions, divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support.
Ms. Albers helps her clients navigate the difficult process involved with their family law matters. She is experienced in helping clients with child custody and visitation issues, including emergency matters; initial determination and modifications of child support; initial determination and modifications of spousal support; pendente lite hearings ahead of the equitable distribution trial (and in some courts, pendente lite custody and visitation schedules); equitable distribution matters involving assets like houses, small businesses, retirement, life insurance, checking/savings accounts, debts and adoptions.
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