Deciding to file for divorce is seldom easy. The filing itself doesn’t have to be difficult if you understand the steps you need to take and the missteps you need to avoid. You also have options. For instance, if you and your spouse agree on all issues, including division of property, spousal support (alimony) and issues surrounding child custody, visitation and support, it is a relatively simple process. If there is a lot of disagreement, or at least points of contention, it is more complicated.
By knowing what to expect, you can minimize the expense and emotional turmoil that divorce can bring. Here are several issues to think about:
1. Understand what to expect financially, emotionally and legally
When you first got married, you had a vision of what life would be like. It seldom is exactly what you (or probably, your spouse) expected. Divorce is similar in that you may have an idea of what life will be like for you after your divorce is finalized, but as you are likely to learn along the way, that may not be the case.
Preparation is key in getting through the divorce process. Financial implications are often complex, even if you don’t have vast assets, so planning is critical. Divorce puts many on an emotional rollercoaster, so it’s common to feel hopeful one minute and depressed the next.Take care of yourself, control your emotions so you can keep a level head and don’t be afraid to get support if you need it.
An experienced California divorce lawyer is a good resource for helping you make a decision regarding the “type” of divorce that’s right for you and your family:
- A no-fault divorce means that the spouse who files needs only site “irreconcilable differences” (the inability to get along with each other) as the reason.
- An uncontested divorce is one in which you and your spouse have a written agreement on all issues, including division of property and debt, child custody and visitation and support.
- A contested divorce means you and your spouse do NOT have a written agreement on all issues, including division of property and debt, child custody and visitation and support.
2. Avoid social media
It can be tempting to turn to social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat during emotionally charged times, including while going through a divorce. You may want to use it to connect with friends and vent your frustrations. Here’s why it’s a bad idea: Anything you say (on social media) can be used against you by your spouse and his or her attorney. Especially in a contentious divorce, your spouse’s legal team will be looking to see what you have posted. Spouse bashing, oversharing information, or even posting an innocent picture of you and your friends enjoying a glass of wine—all can put you in an unfavorable light. The best advice is to avoid using social media during your divorce.
3. Gather all your financial documents
You may be surprised at what you don’t know about your family finances until you actually gather and organize all the financial documents. California courts require financial information (called an Income and Expense Declaration) from both spouses in a divorce proceeding. The documentation is used as the basis for handling all issues regarding divisions of assets and debts as well as child and spousal support. Moreover, it helps you understand your full financial picture. Information you need includes:
- Bank statements (checking and savings accounts)
- Tax returns
- Tax statements (W-2, 1099, 1098 forms)
- Credit card bills, car or other loan documents
- Brokerage and retirement account statements
- Mortgage statements
By having your financial documentation organized and in-hand when you visit your divorce attorney, you will save time and money.
4. Learn about what will be considered in child custody issues
The first thing you should know is that the courts will always base decisions regarding custody on what they deem to be in “the best interest of the child.” As a parent, you also want what is best for your children, but you and your spouse may disagree on exactly what that is. California custody orders include physical custody (where the children live, and it may be either sole or joint), legal custody (also sole or joint, regarding decisions about the health care, education and other important child rearing and welfare choices) and visitation.
Making sure that you get the best for your child means proving that you have their interests at heart. Demonstrate that you are involved in their education, that you nurture them, provide a safe and loving home and that you are able to put their needs above any animosity between you and your spouse.