What You Should Do Before Filing for Divorce

No matter how it happens — divorce can be frustrating and overwhelming. The first question many of our clients ask us is: what they should do to prepare for filing for a divorce in Grand Rapids. To help answer this question properly, the Grand Rapids divorce attorneys at Tanis Schultz have compiled a detailed list of actions that you should consider taking before you or your spouse file for divorce. This list is intended to be a guide, and does not serve as legal advice specific to your case.

You should contact a Grand Rapids divorce attorney from Tanis Schultz if you have specific questions about how to prepare before filing.

  1. Keep copies of important records and documents. As soon as possible, duplicate records such as tax returns, financial statements, bank records, retirement plans, deeds, insurance policies, property tax statements and check registers. You may want to obtain a safe place outside the home to keep your copies such as a safe deposit box at a bank.
  2. Purchase a post office box for your own mail if you and your spouse continue to reside together and you are concerned that your spouse will interfere with your mail.
  3. Review the mail that comes to the home, looking for information that may be helpful such as credit card statements, insurance information, financial statements, etc.
  4. Start a journal, and detail the marital history, such as important dates, purchase of large assets, etc. If you think that custody may be an issue, start a daily journal showing what you do each day as far as providing for your children.
  5. Make a list of all assets and liabilities to prepare you for your meeting with your lawyer.
  6. Inventory your personal property located within or about the home, by making a list and documenting with pictures or video. Be specific and go room by room. If property later is missing, there will be documentation available to hold your spouse accountable.
  7. To establish credit, obtain a credit card in your own name. If you have been turned down, start with a credit card at a local retailer, and charge a few small items and pay them off. This will help you expand your credit. It is often easier to obtain credit while you are married as opposed to being single.
  8. Order a credit report. You are entitled to one free report each year. You can go on line and obtain one. It is important to know what debts your name appears on as a responsible party.
  9. Do not create any additional joint indebtedness, such as home equity loans, new credit card accounts, etc. When you are close to separating or filing, close out all joint credit card accounts and try to separate out your debt. If you can, pay off with joint funds any debt that is in your name only in order to protect your credit rating.
  10. You should also close out any joint checking or savings accounts, and create new separate accounts. You may want to take out your half of any joint funds to be held in your name only. However, you may later have to account for these funds, so don‘t spend it unless necessary.
  11. Start to set money aside for hiring an attorney, rent, or any other expense that may be necessary as a result of an impending divorce or separation.
  12. Before you separate, use joint funds to repair your car or home, to obtain medical or dental treatment, or to purchase necessary items for you or the children. After your separation, you may have to pay these expenses on your own.
  13. If there are any special items of personal property that are not replaceable, such as pictures, jewelry, collectibles, or items of sentimental value, consider removing them to a safe place.
  14. If you have information about your spouse that you intend to use later, such as incriminating e-mails, letters, pictures, etc., keep these items in a safe place outside the home.
  15. If you have received or are about to receive an inheritance, keep the funds separate. Do not use the funds to pay off joint debt, and do not commingle the funds in a joint account.
  16. If you can, delay receiving a bonus or increase in pay until after the divorce is final.
  17. Make a list of expenses and spending history so you know your financial needs.
  18. If you have not been the primary wage earner, consider going back to school or improving your skills. Contact a local community college to see what programs are available. Update your resume and start looking for employment. It will not hurt your legal position to be employed, in fact it will help by showing that you are making an effort to demonstrate what you are capable of earning, and provide you with overall more financial resources.
  19. If you have an accountant or financial advisor consult with them. If you are considering keeping the marital home, meet with a mortgage advisor to see if you will qualify for a loan.
  20. Get support and information from books, support groups, community resources and counseling if helpful.

You may want to talk to your spouse about resolving things amicably and such discussions are encouraged, however do not sign any type of agreement without first consulting with a Grand Rapids divorce lawyer. Also do not want to give away your ‘bottom line‘ too soon in the negotiation process. Talk to your spouse and learn about what they want or see as a viable solution, but do not commit yourself to any position.

If you have further questions regarding divorce or if you are ready to get legal advice about your specific case, contact the Grand Rapids divorce attorneys at Tanis Schultz or call our office today at 616.608.7149.