If you find yourself considering a divorce, here are a few simple suggestions to help get you ready.
First, consider your options. Do you want to pursue mediation, collaboration or litigation? Mediation and collaboration involve working together with your spouse to come to an agreement on the outstanding issues in your case. Litigation involves making arguments in court and letting a judge decide what will happen in your case.
Second, begin gathering your financial information. Before you start your divorce, you need a clear picture of where you and your spouse stand financially. One of the primary goals of the divorce process is an equitable division of the marital assets and debts. In order to do this, it is important for you to know what is owned and what is owed by you individually, your spouse individually, and you both together.
Start by drafting a summary of what you own, both individually and as a couple. While some assets are obvious, such as the marital home, vehicles, and financial accounts, some are not (including valuable artwork, retirement accounts, inheritances, and assets brought into the marriage.) Make a list of all assets owned and gather the documentation of each asset. This includes any and all deeds, bank statements, appraisals, insurance information, etc. List each asset, the present value, when and where the asset was purchased, and whether it was purchased with joint or separate funds.
Then draft a summary of what you owe, both individually and as a couple. Once you determine what debts are owed, obtain all statements on all open accounts with a current balance. When providing this information to your attorney, don't forget to keep copies for yourself.
Also gather documents that show your and your spouse's income. If you are a salaried employee, this can be accomplished by gathering your most recent paystub and the last two years tax returns. If you or your spouse are self-employed, gather current bank account statements and financial business statements (including profit and loss statement.) While it may be difficult to ascertain your spouse's income if they are self-employed, gather the documents you are able to and speak with your attorney about the discovery process.
Third, prepare a post-divorce budget. Begin to plan what you will have to live on once your divorce is finalized. This is the best way to be prepared for your financial situation once your divorce is finalized. You will need to estimate some expenses, but this is an important step in creating your new life. It is also important because it can influence how you negotiate your divorce settlement. You need to know what you will need financially in order to properly evaluate any and all settlement proposals you may be asked to consider. If needed, consult with a financial planner. If you do not have any credit in your name alone, now is the time to establish some. You can do this by opening a credit card in your name alone.
Fourth, choose the right attorney. You should feel comfortable with and trust your attorney.
Here at Ham Family Law, Ms. Ham specializes in complex litigation and mediation. Whether you and your spouse agree to mediate, or intend to litigate, Ham Family Law has the experience and capabilities to help you feel informed and empowered as you navigate the difficult issue of divorce.
Fifth, put your team together. Hire an attorney, consult with a financial planner or accountant if needed, and consider speaking to a therapist to help you transition into a new way of life.
Finally, consider creating a divorce file. A divorce produces a lot of paperwork. The best way to keep track of your case is to keep a binder filled with all of your documents, including your fee agreement with your attorney and any and all documents and correspondence from your attorney, the court, or opposing counsel. It is also helpful to keep these documents in chronological order. You may also find it helpful to set up individual files for different categories. Some examples are correspondence, drafts of agreements, financial information, and court documents (otherwise known as pleadings)
If you find that you are ready to move forward with a divorce, please do not hesitate to call Ham Family Law at (510) 414-7417 to schedule a complimentary consultation and see if we can assist you in your matter.