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Specialty tag(s): Pre-Divorce Guidance
Five Important Tips Before You File for Divorce
Jonathan James | November 16, 2022
Am I ready to end my marriage? What does life look like if I decide to divorce? How will this decision affect our children?
Filing for divorce is one of the hardest decisions you will make, and these are all important questions to be asking yourself. Not only does this decision affect your future, but it changes the trajectory of your spouse’s life and the lives of your children.
Before taking measures that are complicated to step back from, here are five considerations to help you decide if divorcing is the right option for you and your family:
Are you sure you want a divorce?
The first person you should be having a conversation with about divorce is yourself. How serious are you about divorcing? Before you mention anything to your spouse, consider what has happened to lead you down this path. Are your problems possible to work through or not? What are the pros and cons of staying in your marriage?
Next, plan on how you would like to broach the subject with your spouse. Write down what you would like to say, but do not act on anything right away. Step back, cool down, sleep on it, and re-read it in the light of day. Taking the time to process your own thoughts and emotions will either help you realize it should not be shared and you don’t want to divorce, or it will reinforce that divorcing is the right decision for you.
Timing is everything.
If you do decide to divorce, particularly when kids are involved, look dispassionately at their life circumstances in the upcoming year. Realistically, a divorce will take at least six months to a year from start to finish. Often longer.
Has your new high schooler just landed their first role in the school play? Is this the first year of kindergarten at a new school for your little one? Besides emergencies where filing quickly is necessary to protect you and/or your children from physical or emotional harm, you have some control over when you file.
While kids are never going to be excited about their parents splitting, their parents being sensitive to the timing of when they divorce can go a long way in everyone accepting their new normal more quickly.
Gather important information.
You may feel compelled to file for divorce as soon as possible, but you have some housekeeping to do. You will need to gather information about your assets and liabilities, taxes, mortgage payments, and bank statements. While this information gathering will be tedious, it is better for all involved if you know exactly what your financial situation is. Lawyers need hard numbers to project your post-divorce life and brainstorm realistic terms for negotiation, and providing that upfront will save you time and money.
The more information you can obtain before filing for divorce, the better. Once filed, this information typically becomes more difficult and more expensive to obtain. Even if both spouses are clueless about financial particulars and/or completely above board but with no real knowledge, it is infinitely more expensive for the divorce attorney or financial expert to dig through back tax returns and receipts to put the financial puzzle together for you.
Once your spouse knows you are filing, assume they will waste no time jumping into their own data-collecting. If one spouse knows much more about the financial estate than the other spouse, this disparity can give rise to issues such as hiding, transferring, or moving assets without the other spouse’s knowledge during a divorce. The more knowledge about the financial estate you have before filing, the more protected you are from these potentially coy financial maneuvers.
Check your credit.
Are there two names on the mortgage or one? Do you have joint checking and savings, or do you have separate accounts? How many credit cards are in your name? What do you owe on your house? Do yourself a favor and run a credit report under your name: what debt is in your name will show up there. You can go to annualcreditreport.com and request a free annual credit report. Also check your income and property taxes.
And what about a 401K? IRA? The IRS is an unstoppable force: make sure you are aware of any outstanding tax liability with the IRS so that can be addressed in the divorce process.
Prioritize Understanding Your Financial Future.
Be honest with yourself. If you have been the not so “in the know” spouse regarding finances, do not beat yourself up about it, but do recognize the fact that this can make you more vulnerable early in the divorce process. Then, take the steps necessary to change it.
It is important to get to know your finances because it is up to you to project honestly into your financial future. You will be going from one home to two, with insurance, utilities, and all the other hidden costs that the scenario might entail. Has one of you been at home with the kids and will now likely return to work? Will you need to work less with added kid responsibility? You must do a budget, taking real expenses into account.
To know what your goals are you must know what you own and owe. Many financial planners will prepare a budget with you; build that relationship moving forward into your new life so you can take it on yourself. The reality of divorce is that your financial lifestyle is likely going to change. The trick is to accept that as quickly as workable so moving forward is possible.
Divorce is not a quick process, and you should take your time to decide. Many people who consider divorce do not always end up not going through with it, and no matter what your decision is, it is important not to hold onto any guilt for looking into your options. It may be painful to go through the motions of your day-to-day life knowing that you are making this decision but handling the process with care is crucial for everyone involved.
Even if you know that filing for divorce is right for you, it does not make the reality of the situation any easier. For guidance on how to move forward with the divorce process, speak to one of Goranson Bain Ausley’s experienced family law attorneys.
Jonathan James is a highly skilled litigator and negotiator in high-conflict legal situations and consistently receives praise from his former clients for his integrity, professionalism, and responsiveness. Jonathan is Board-Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in family law and is a member of the State Bar of Texas. Additionally, he is trained in Collaborative Divorce and has been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star, 2019-2022 and Best Lawyer 2020-2021 and 2023 by The Best Lawyers in America.
To learn more about premarital and postmarital agreements, please contact Jonathan James at 214-473-9696.