What should I consider before filing for divorce?
First and foremost, you should always consider your fiduciary duties to your spouse or registered domestic partner when undertaking any pre-dissolution planning. In California, spouses and partners owe each other moral, ethical, and legal obligations to act in good faith, to ensure fair dealing, and to avoid taking unfair advantage of the other. That is, you can't just drain a bank account and go. However, failing to plan could impair your ability to ensure that both you and your spouse start the separation process on equal footing. Pre-dissolution planning must be undertaken carefully and should be done under the guidance of an experienced attorney.
Preparing for a divorce is a significant step that requires careful consideration and planning. Here are some important things to do before telling your spouse about your intention to divorce:
- Seek Legal Advice: Consult with a qualified family law attorney to understand your rights, responsibilities, and the legal process involved in divorce. An attorney can provide guidance on important issues such as property division, child custody, and financial considerations.
- Gather Financial Documents: Collect important financial documents, including bank statements, tax returns, investment records, mortgage or lease agreements, and credit card statements. Having these documents organized and readily accessible will help facilitate the division of assets and financial matters during the divorce process.
- Establish Individual Finances: Open individual bank accounts and credit cards in your name to ensure financial independence and to start separating your finances from your spouse. Begin tracking your individual income and expenses to establish a clear financial picture.
- Inventory Assets and Debts: Make a comprehensive list of all marital assets and debts, including real estate, vehicles, investments, and loans. Documenting these details will be valuable during property division negotiations or court proceedings.
- Protect Important Documents: Safeguard important personal and legal documents, such as birth certificates, passports, social security cards, wills, and insurance policies. Consider keeping copies in a secure location, separate from the marital residence.
- Support Network: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist for emotional support during this challenging time. Having a strong support network can help you navigate the emotional aspects of divorce.
- Create a Parenting Plan: If you have children, start thinking about a parenting plan that outlines custody and visitation arrangements. Consider their well-being and be prepared to discuss how you envision co-parenting after the divorce.
- Develop a Post-Divorce Plan: Start envisioning your life post-divorce. Think about your long-term goals, financial stability, and potential living arrangements. Creating a plan can provide a sense of direction and empower you during the divorce process.
- Take Care of Yourself: Prioritize self-care and emotional well-being. Engage in activities that help reduce stress and maintain physical and mental health. Consider seeking therapy or counseling to help navigate the emotional challenges associated with divorce.
Is there anything I should avoid doing in preparing for a divorce?
When preparing to tell your spouse that you want a divorce, it's important to approach the situation with care and sensitivity. Here are some things to avoid prior to having that conversation:
- Don't Rush: Take the time to carefully consider your decision before discussing it with your spouse. Make sure you are certain about your choice to pursue a divorce and have thought through the potential consequences.
- Avoid Confrontation or Blame: While it's natural to have emotions and frustrations, it's important to approach the conversation calmly and respectfully. Avoid blaming or attacking your spouse during the discussion, as it can escalate conflict and hinder productive communication.
- Don't Discuss Divorce in Front of Children: If you have children, it's crucial to shield them from discussions about divorce until you and your spouse can speak with them together and provide age-appropriate information. Avoid having contentious or emotional conversations about divorce in front of your children.
- Avoid Sharing Your Intentions with Others: Prior to speaking with your spouse, it's generally advisable to keep your intention to divorce confidential. Sharing this information with friends, family, or coworkers can lead to unnecessary complications, rumors, and potential legal consequences.
- Don't Hide or Manipulate Assets: It's important to maintain transparency and avoid any actions that could be perceived as hiding or manipulating assets. This includes making large financial transactions, closing accounts, or transferring funds without proper legal advice.
- Avoid Social Media Conflicts: Refrain from posting about your intent to divorce or sharing negative comments about your spouse on social media platforms. Social media activity can be used as evidence during divorce proceedings and may negatively impact your case.
- Don't Make Major Decisions Impulsively: Try to avoid making major life decisions, such as selling property or making significant financial changes, without first seeking legal advice. Acting impulsively can have long-term consequences and may complicate the divorce process.
- Don't Neglect Your Safety: If you have concerns about your safety or the safety of your children, it's crucial to prioritize your well-being. Reach out to local resources, such as domestic violence hotlines or support organizations, for guidance and assistance.
Remember, divorce is a significant life event, and seeking guidance from a qualified family law attorney is highly recommended. They can provide personalized advice based on your specific situation and help you navigate the divorce process while protecting your rights and interests. At Murphy Family Law, we recommend that you seek advice from an attorney specialized in family law matters before announcing your decision to end your relationship with your significant other. We can help you ensure that you do not violate your ethical duties to your spouse or partner while at the same time ensuring that you do not inadvertently place yourself in a compromised or disadvantaged position before you take action. We frequently see people make the same mistakes that could have been easily avoided with a simple one hour consultation with an attorney.