Preparing to file for divorce

When the realization hits you that you cannot carry on any longer in your marriage, you may feel a mixture of relief and anxiety. Whether your marriage was contentious or simply empty, the decision to divorce opens new possibilities.

As eager as you may be to get through the process of divorce and move on with your new life, there are certain factors you cannot rush. In fact, before filing for divorce or even announcing your intentions to your spouse, there are critical steps to take if you hope to enter your post-divorce life with any sense of financial security.

Your financial future

Your first step is to take a careful inventory of your finances. Aside from knowing the value of your home and the amount of money in your savings, you may have other assets that will be part of property division, such as investments, retirement funds and real estate. Since California is a community property state, the court assumes you will divide your joint assets 50-50, so you will want a good understanding of the value of those assets.

Before you officially file for divorce, you will also want to take care of these details:

  • Know the total of all your debts.
  • Gather documentation of your and your spouse's income, including bonuses, invoices for freelance work and investment statements.
  • Create a reasonable budget based on your projected post-divorce income.
  • Close any joint credit accounts.
  • Pay off as much debt as possible.
  • Obtain a new credit card in your name only to begin building your own credit.

If you fear your spouse will react poorly and attempt to empty your joint bank accounts, you should move half of the balance into an account in your own name. However, it is important that you do not hide this from your spouse or attempt to keep marital assets secret from the divorce process. This could result in serious negative consequences. Instead, keep a log of how you use the money and be forthcoming during the discovery process.

No matter how confident you feel about your choice to end your marriage, you are entering legal grounds in which you may have little experience. This is why your choice of family law attorney is critical. Take your time deciding who will represent you, and don't settle for a lawyer who is not willing to serve your unique needs, whether through amicable mediation or aggressive litigation.

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