Divorce may be the only viable way forward, but it is not easy. It untangles the complexities of a shared life that includes kids, finances, property, and even an attic filled with boxes. It can be stressful and emotional with decisions that can impact your life for years to come.
Experts believe it is in the best interests of the family to have a plan that works towards some crucial goals. This is done while equitably dividing assets and debts, drafting a custody or parenting plan, and countless other details.
Preparation can help the process go more smoothly and often enables spouses to feel better about the process and the decisions made. Those planning to divorce or have even begun the process should take inventory. This includes looking at:
- Personal finances, income, assets and tax returns
- Define what is marital and what is non-marital assets
- Collect bank statements from all accounts
- Get copies of real estate deeds and mortgage information
- Determine the value of insurance policies and retirement accounts
- Compile a list of all debt including credit cards and student loans
When possible try to get records for the entire length of the marriage, which can then help define marital asset accrued during the marriage versus those brought in to the marriage.
Organize this information
Clients help themselves and keep down legal costs if they can provide a well-organized packet of information to their attorney. Depending upon the size of the estate, it may be necessary to get accountants involved. Either way, using easy to understand categorization will help your legal team find the information they need and determine if anything is missing.
When sitting with an attorney, it is essential to discuss such priorities as custody issues, keeping the family home if that is possible, child support, spousal maintenance or other factors. Many recommend determining priorities by using three buckets listed as: Need to have, would like to have, and do not need.
An attorney can look after your best interests
An experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney can work with clients to ensure that parental and individual rights are protected. They can also address the priorities of the buckets to hammer out fair and equitable agreements.