What Four Things You Need to Know Before you Start the Divorce Process

If you've decided that you want a divorce, you're embarking on a process that can consume time, money, and emotional energy. If you prepare yourself at the outset, you can help yourself embark on what can be an unpredictable process.

Your finances

Dividing assets and debts is obviously a key part of settling a divorce—you'll need to determine what assets and debts you and your spouse have before you can divide them. You should also know how to monitor activity on all accounts during the divorce, to make sure your spouse is not moving money in and out of accounts, which would be in violation of the temporary orders overseeing both of your actions during the divorce proceedings.

Your home

If you and your spouse own a home, it's likely one of your largest assets—you definitely want to come to the table knowing how much you owe on it and whether you see you or your spouse living in the house long-term. (Though you don't want to move out of the home before you talk to a lawyer first.)

Your kids' needs

If you have children, their needs should be the top priority of your divorce. In working out a parenting plan, think about their school schedules and their extra-curricular activities, and figure those into a possible parenting plan. While the courts suggest a standard plan that many couples end up abiding by, there are alternatives that allow parents more flexibility and equality—and, most importantly—work better for children.

The whereabouts of your marriage documents

The first step in any divorce, as silly as it might sound, is to prove that you are currently legally married (or have a legitimate claim to common law marriage). You'll need to produce your marriage license before you file a decree—and if you're Catholic and looking to get an annulment, you'll need to locate the church documents for your marriage and start that process.

And, of course, before you start down the path of filing for divorce, you should speak to a family lawyer to talk about your options and get a better understanding of the process. It's a process you want to understand before you embark on it, no matter how ready you feel you are.