There are a number of ways to prepare for divorce depending on individual circumstances. The first questions I normally ask when people call me for advice because they are contemplating a divorce are:
1) Do you have children with your spouse?
2) Do you own real estate with your spouse?
3) Do you own any businesses?
These are the things that can really complicate a divorce. But as far as how to prepare for divorce, there are a number of things that you should consider.
Do You Need A Lawyer?
If you and your spouse can approach two attorneys and tell them that you want to try and work together before filing a divorce case and begin the litigation process, it can make things a lot less difficult. Once the divorce case is filed, the clock starts ticking, emotions get heightened and everything gets a little more expensive and difficult.
As soon as lawyers become involved, it almost always becomes what is called a contested divorce. Once you’re represented by lawyers, you’re almost always talking to each other through your lawyers rather than directly to each other. That can be good or bad depending on the circumstances.
As you prepare for divorce, finding the right attorney is really important too. If you go to a law firm who’s main motivation to be as aggressive as possible and bill as much as they can, you can expect to spend a lot of money. On the other hand, if people want to give mediation a shot, they still may want to have a lawyer for independent advice throughout mediation and they might retain a lawyer solely for that purpose. That can help them resolve some issues very cost effectively before filing the divorce case.
Divorce Preparation – Assets, Debt, Children
In order to prepare for divorce, you’ll want to know where all your property is. You’ll want to have have documentation of all bank accounts, retirement accounts, and debts (print a credit report to be aware of all debts that you and your spouse might have).
If you own a house, a good way to start is to do your best to talk with your spouse about who will get to keep the house and continue to live in it, or whether it will be sold or whatever makes the most sense for your family.
The same holds true with children. If you can’t come to an agreement, at least start a discussion about who the kids are going to live with, how far apart you and your spouse will live after the divorce and start to create a plan for the kids. Also discuss a holiday schedule, for example, who will have the kids for winter, summer and spring breaks from school. If you can figure out those issues before getting lawyers to file a divorce case on your behalf, it can better prepare you to reach a resolution before you get too involved in litigation.
Once you start litigation one of the first things that will happen is a discovery request. One lawyer is going to send the other lawyer a request for financial documents, proof of ownership, proof of debts etc. For some people, it can be helpful to have a law firm organize all of that for you and provide it to the other side. But, in terms of preparation, if the parties can get that together before they start talking to a lawyer, that can save them a lot of time, money and headache later on.
Lawyers can be a great tool to help you get a divorce done, but if you expect a lawyer to do all the work, it’s going to be really expensive. Preparing documents ahead of time is important. There is an Oregon law that tells you what documents need to to be exchanged between the parties before you go to trial. Look at that list and just get all of those things organized. [LINK TO LIST OF DOCUMENTS PARTIES MUST FURNISH TO EACH OTHER]
When To File For Divorce
Once the divorce case is filed and the other party is served a petition, something called the statutory restraining order on dissipation of assets kicks in. In a nutshell what that means is that it prohibits either party from making any big financial changes while the divorce case is pending. If there is any concern about one spouse hiding assets or selling valuable property or gifting valuable property to someone else to get it out of the divorce case before it begins, it may be a good idea to get that divorce case filed quickly so that the spouse is prevented from transferring assets into something other than marital property.
Basically, when you’re getting up to the point where your almost ready to file, if you’re worried about big money transfers or property sales, you should get the case filed right away to prevent your spouse from doing anything drastic. While these are all important considerations, they are by no means the only things to think about if your considering a divorce. Then best way to ensure that you protect your rights and property is to talk a divorce attorney who can give you advice based on your individual circumstances. Call The LeSueur Family Law Firm today for your initial consultation.