Many people feel overwhelmed by the divorce process. However, once you have made the decision to divorce, getting organized and prepared for the days to come can help eliminate some of the stress.
There are many steps you can take before filing for divorce that can help you gain an overall picture of where you stand and help prepare you for the process to come. Before filing, you should compile the following documents and information:
- Personal documents: You will need to provide personal information when filing for divorce and for the court to review, including identification. Compile your proof of identification, marriage license, any pre- or post-nuptial agreement, temporary restraining order, identifying information for minor children, any existing child custody agreement, and medical records if you or your children have medical conditions or special needs.
- Finances: The court will need a full picture of the financial health of both spouses. You will need to compile bank statements, tax returns, retirement accounts, investment statements, pensions, life insurance policies, business income, credit reports, and other shared or individual financial records.
- Proof of income: If you and your spouse are employed, both of you will need to provide proof of income, such as recent paystubs and tax returns. If you own a business, rental property, or any other venture in which you receive an income, you will need to include this information as well.
- Marital assets: Compile a list of marital assets and debts. Marital assets generally include items such as the main residence, vacation homes, vehicles, boats, furniture, art, investments, and businesses. Marital debts may include mortgage, vehicle, and personal loans, tax payments, insurance premiums, and credit card debt.
- Personal property: Not all property is jointly owned or considered marital property. Items owned by either spouse prior to the marriage, or individually during the marriage, such as inheritance, may be considered personal property and excluded from equitable distribution. However, some individually owned assets may be considered marital property if used to acquire something during the marriage, such as one spouse applying a portion of their inheritance toward the purchase of the marital home.
- Separate finances: You should open separate bank accounts early in the process if you do not already have them. Be transparent with your spouse about doing so and what portion of the joint bank account you intend to transfer. It is important to establish your own accounts for several reasons, but largely to prevent your spouse from emptying a joint bank account and to ensure you have access to funds.
- Establish credit: Open a credit card or line of credit in your own name. Doing so provides you access to additional funds in an emergency and helps to begin building your individual credit history for post-divorce purposes.
- Change passwords: Protect your personal accounts and finances by changing all of your passwords to something your spouse is unlikely to guess. This will help protect you from future fraud, identity theft, and prevent your spouse from accessing or altering accounts and locking you out. Also, change the passwords to your social accounts, especially if you anticipate a contentious divorce.
- Legal documents: Consider changing legal documents in which your spouse is currently the beneficiary or decision-maker of, such as a will, life insurance policy, or power of attorney.
- Determine custody: If you have children, you should begin discussing child custody decisions with your spouse early on, if possible. Consider whether you want joint custody, which of you will be the primary custodial parent, co-parenting schedules, and education for your children.
Additionally, you should consult an attorney, especially if you have questions about the documents and information you need to prepare for the divorce process. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help alleviate some of the stress, move the process along faster, keep you and your children protected, and they can fight to ensure your best interests are protected.
Metuchen Divorce Attorneys at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC Represent Clients Who Are Divorcing in New Jersey
Divorce can be difficult, and the amount of information you must consider can seem overwhelming. At Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC, our Metuchen divorce attorneys can alleviate some of the burden and help you prepare everything you will need. Call us today at 732-494-6099 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Metuchen, New Jersey, we serve clients in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Union County, and Somerset County.