When Divorce is a New Year’s Resolution

For many people, the New Year is a time to make resolutions, typically on self-improvement like getting in shape or learning a new skill. Those unhappy in their marriage may also use this as the catalyst to proceed with a divorce. If this is you, there’s plenty you can start doing now to prepare, even if the filing won’t come until later in the new year.

Is Divorce the Best Solution?

The first place to start is to consider if there’s an alternative solution. Sometimes, it’s easier to blame your spouse than reflect upon your issues and shortcomings. The unhappiness may stem from you. Perhaps individual or couple’s counseling would be beneficial as a first resort. If the drive for your divorce is a conflict of parenting styles, will a divorce help or hurt that further? When both parties seek to reconcile and save the relationship, they’re more apt to compromise than if they’re divorced. Being separated often exacerbates the issue that led to the split in the first place.

Determine Combined Debt

Whether it is yours, your spouse’s, or combined, make a list of all debts. Once you have compiled the list of debts, obtain copies of your credit report to make sure they match. If they don’t, figure out why. Is it something you forgot? Is it an error? Did your spouse obtain credit in your name fraudulently?

Knowing all of this ahead of time allows you to fix any errors and eliminate that hiccup in the proceedings. Or, in the case of fraudulent actions by your spouse, have it figured out to bring up during the divorce proceedings rather than after the divorce is final. At this point, make your determination on who should be responsible for what after the divorce.

Take Inventory

Another list to compile would be a list of all assets, physical or intangible, that are yours, your spouse’s, and combined. Depending on which state you live in, you may need to provide documentation that delineates all assets you and your spouse own, individually and collectively. Doing this ahead of time will make the process faster and easier.

Also, break this list down by category. Here are some examples: real estate, cars and other vehicles, any financial accounts, pension/retirement accounts, stocks/bonds/mutual funds, any business holdings, life insurance policies, household furnishings, appliances, electronics, jewelry, fine art/collectibles, safe deposit box contents, etc.

Typically, individual property is anything the person came into the marriage with, inheritances, gifted to an individual, or proceeds from a lawsuit. In contrast, marital property is items gained during the marriage. Hopefully, an amicable split is on the horizon for you, and you can develop a reasonable division of assets. On that note, once you have the list made, go through and mark what you think should go to whom or items you wish to keep.

Find and Organize Crucial Documents

Many of the documents listed below will be required at some point in the divorce proceedings. Also, an angry soon-to-be-ex could destroy or hide them as an act of vindictiveness. Gathering them now will identify anything you are missing as well as protect them. Being prepared saves you some stress down the road from trying to scramble to get these together when the court requires them. Once you have them together and organized, make copies so each of you can have a copy.

Documents required may include:

  • Real estate documents (deeds, mortgages, home equity loans)
  • Vehicle loan papers and title
  • Wills and power of attorney documents
  • Advanced medical directives
  • Tax returns
  • Insurance documents
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage license
  • Social security cards
  • Passports
  • Paystubs or other proof of income
  • Investment records
  • Any court records from other proceedings

Know What You Can Afford

Having an idea of what your living expenses will be post-divorce and what the process will cost you can give you an idea of what you’re going to be able to do. Lay it all down on paper so you can see exactly what this will all entail. Beyond that, determine the child support based on an anticipated custody split. Spousal maintenance may also be a consideration if the incomes are quite disparate. Child support and spousal maintenance are considered separately, and most states will have income guidelines for each.

When looking to pursue a divorce in the new year, these steps will help guide the process and ease the stress. If you need additional information or are interested in a consultation to discuss an impending divorce, please contact an Atlanta divorce attorney at Family Matters Law Group today. We have the knowledge and courtroom savvy to help every step of the way with your divorce.