A few things you suspected, weren’t sure of, and that I can confirm for you:
- Filing for divorce is a daunting task in all but the simplest cases.
- There are plenty of shyster divorce lawyers out there. Buyer beware.
- Fortune favors both the bold and the prepared in divorce.
You know you should get a divorce lawyer if there is anything that you and your spouse disagree over regarding divorce. Remember the old Fram oil filter commercial?
Fram salesman: A Fram filter doesn’t cost much.
Engine mechanic: I do.
Fram salesman: But the choice is yours. You can pay me now—
Engine mechanic: . . . or pay me later.
Instead of having to suffer a similar fate in your divorce, you might want to consider doing a few of the following to smooth the process, avoid the damage procrastination does, make your divorce as painless as possible, and give yourself every advantage that a little (and sometimes a lot of) advance planning and preparation will provide.
Talk to a marriage counselor.
Even though, at this point, you may have declared your marriage dead (and for good reason), a marriage counselor is still useful for other things. A marriage counselor can help you figure out what went wrong in the relationship and help you cope with the impending end of your marriage, whether you, your spouse, or both are the cause. I mean it. Some people can cope with divorce on their own, some people who are otherwise physically and mentally healthy can’t go it alone. That doesn’t make you a bad person or a defective person, it makes you a smart person, if you do the right thing for you.
Gather your financial documents.
Part of filing for divorce will mean reviewing your finances; you income, assets, expenses, and debts. Gather your financial documents so that you (and your attorney) know what you’re dealing with and help you exert greater control over what happens. In Utah, this is a minimum list of what you will need to prepare your Financial Declaration:
- For the two tax years before the petition in this case was filed, complete federal and state income tax returns, including Form W-2, Form 1099, and Form K-1, and supporting tax schedules and attachments filed by you and by any entity in which you have a majority or controlling interest.
- Pay stubs and other evidence of all earned and un-earned income for the 12 months before the petition in this case was filed. For income that changes from month to month, calculate the annual total and divide by 12 months to list a monthly average.
- All loan applications and financial statements prepared or used by the party completing the financial declaration within the 12 months before the petition in this case was filed.
- Documents verifying the value of all real estate in which the party has an interest, including the most recent appraisal, tax valuation and refinance documents.
- All statements for the 3 months before the petition in this case was filed for all financial accounts, including checking, savings, money market funds, certificates of deposit, brokerage, investment, and retirement.
- Social Security Number
- Monthly Tax Deductions. These are deductions required by law and which you do not make voluntarily. Gather documentation of claims, such as most recent pay stubs, federal and state tax returns for past 2 years, W-2 forms, or a work history report from the Department of Workforce Services.
- Real Property. Attach evidence of items listed, such as mortgage statements, loan documents, most recent appraisal, basis of valuation, etc.
- Personal Property. Gather evidence of items listed, such as receipts, loan documents, basis of current value, certificates of title, etc.
- Financial Assets. Gather evidence of items listed, including last 3 months of bank statements, contracts, etc.
Bank or Credit Union Account
Stocks, Bonds, Securities, Money Market Fund
Certificates of Deposit
Retirement Account (Pension, 401(k), IRA, etc.)
Profit Sharing Plan
Money owed to you and/or your spouse
Debts. Gather evidence of items listed, such as credit card statements, loan documents, leases, bills, etc. that identify the name and address of creditor, the purpose of the debt (such as credit card, cash loan, installment payment, etc.), in whose name the debt was incurred, amount owed, monthly payments,
Monthly Expenses. Include amounts other than taxes withheld from your paycheck. For expenses that change from month to month, calculate the annual total and divide by 12 months to list a monthly average. Include amounts you pay for yourself and any children or other dependents in your household.
Rent or mortgage
Real property taxes
Alimony (from prior marriage)
Real property insurance
Child support (from prior order)
Real property maintenance
Food and household supplies
Laundry and dry cleaning
Extra-curricular activities (children)
Health care insurance premiums
Health care expenses
Other insurance (Describe)
Union or other dues
401K or other retirement or pension fund contribution
Savings plan contribution
Water, sewer and garbage
Paid television (Cable, Satellite, Etc.)
Consult a Good Divorce Lawyer Early On
I carefully chose each word in the heading above. I stated at the beginning of this article that there are plenty of shyster divorce lawyers. Yet divorce lawyers remain in business, and that’s because some of us provide a vital service. You may not need an attorney for your divorce, but you’d be a fool not to find out in advance, as opposed to discovering after the fact of going it alone that you should’ve hired counsel. Consult a divorce lawyer early on, and not just any divorce lawyer, a good divorce lawyer. Someone who practices divorce and family law exclusively or, if you must go to someone who doesn’t practice divorce and family law exclusively, someone who practices divorce and family law plus one (1) other practice area. Attorneys who claim to offer a broad range of legal services are spread too thin to do any single kind of job well.
Check your credit.
It is always a good idea to know where your credit stands. Request a copy of your credit report so you can take care of any outstanding collections or correct any errors now instead of trying to deal with them later. If you have joint credit cards with your spouse, discuss closing them to protect both of your credit scores.
Apply for your own separate credit card(s).
You may want or need to establish credit in your own name now, and having a credit card will help to do this. To build your credit but small or set expenses—such as gas—on the credit card and pay if off monthly so you have more credit available to you than you do debt.
Make a post-divorce budget.
Using the documents you gathered earlier, assess what your cost of living and income will be after divorce. Save as much as you can now to prepare for initial expenses you may have—such as apartment deposits and moving costs.
Do not leave the marital home without talking to an attorney first.
Whether you decide to proceed through the divorce process without a lawyer, you owe it to yourself to do no less than consult with a good (a good, not just any) divorce attorney before you start the divorce process. Understand for you’ll be up against. Understand what is required of you.
Leaving the home may result in alimony payments, or in your inability to collect alimony. If you leave, you may not be able to return until the divorce is finalized; a process that might take a year or longer. Of course, if you are in abusive situation your safety is more important so take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your children.
While these are a good start, they are by no means a complete list of preparing for your divorce.
You will probably not believe, and surely not like, but you learn about the divorce process and the way divorce law operates. There is no reason for you to reinvent the wheel. There is no reason for you to study at the school of hard knocks. There is no reason why you should engage in trial and error when there are experienced divorce attorneys who have been down this road hundreds of time before with people like you and the people whose experiences were far worse than yours.
To meet with a good lawyer from our office, give us a call we’ll meet with you over lunch at your convenience: 801-466-9277.