Whether you intend to file for divorce or whether your spouse files first, the thought of a divorce is often times overwhelming. This article is intended to give you some initial advice on what steps you should take first in the events a divorce.
Our firm has been handling complex divorces in Central Pennsylvania for over a decade - mostly in Lancaster County. What we have learned is that having a local attorney in matters including divorce, custody and support, is best. That is simply because family law tends to be highly dependent on local practice. Who is the other attorney? Who is the judge? What are the local rules? How do they handle custody conferences and emergency matters? Thus, the first thing you should do is find a local attorney who focuses on divorce; if there are minor children involved, then I also recommend an attorney who handles that as well.
Secondly, divorce is both financially and emotionally taxing; thus, I recommend seeking counseling or a therapist (for both you and any minor children) at the outset. Counseling will help you wade through the emotional trauma of a fractured - and perhaps now broken - marriage. This is important because at some point in the divorce you must set aside your emotions and make a business decision. That is not to say that emotions aren't relevant and important - rather, it means your emotions are so important, that seeking professional help at the outset will only benefit you down the road as you and your spouse figure out how to divide your assets and debts fairly. You can't reasonably make important financial decisions if you are looking at every issue through an emotionally charged lens. Although fighting over the basement couch may feel good at the time, spending thousands of lawyer's fees for a couch worth $50 is not worth it in the long run.
Lastly, organize your finances before you meet with your attorney. I recommend at least 2 of your most recent tax returns, recent credit card and bank statements (no matter who incurred the debt), a recent mortgage/line of credit/home equity loan statement, retirement, pension, profit sharing and any other investment account statements (stocks, bonds), a recent appraisal of the marital residence (or look up the approximate value on zillow for example), plus a list of any personal property yet to be divided between the two of you (focus on the larger value items such as artwork and furniture). You will save thousands of dollars having these financial documents neatly organized as opposed to simply dropping off a box of documents at your lawyer's office that he or she will have to go through (and charge you!).
There is of course so much more to a divorce than is included in this article; however, these tips will hopefully give you some ideas to consider. Nobody ever gets married expecting a divorce. We all hope for the best - but sometimes, life gets in the way and a divorce becomes necessary. In that unfortunate event, you want to be prepared.
Our firm has been handling complex divorce matters for over a decade in Lancaster County involving well over $10 Million Dollars in divorce assets. Please contact our office and let us tackle the unknowns and uncertainties - so that you don't have to. 717.435.8830.