How to Prepare for a Divorce
No one plans for their marriage to end, but when you do decide to get a divorce, you will want to be as prepared as possible. Walking into a divorce without a clear understanding of your finances or legal obligations can lead to a difficult, draining process. By collecting the right documents, planning for custody, and determining how to deal with leftover debt, you can ensure that your divorce goes much more smoothly than otherwise.
Rules for Filing for a Divorce in California
In order to file for divorce in the state of California, you must fulfill specific requirements under the law. While some of these requirements are easy to fulfill, others are more complicated. For one, California is a no-fault divorce state, which means you only have to show that you no longer wish to be married to get a divorce. Even if your spouse disagrees, you do not need their permission to file.
However, that does not mean that your divorce will be a cakewalk. While being a no-fault state, California is also an equitable distribution state. Under equitable distribution, the family court divides all marital property reasonably and fairly in a divorce. It is important to understand that this is not the same as a 50/50 split, and there are several elements that can influence how your household is divided. If you do not work with an experienced attorney and prepare properly, you may be denied your fair share in a divorce.
8 Steps You Must Follow
Divorce is never simple, but there are a few pieces of information you can gather to make the process easier:
- Income Statements: Your finances will play a huge role in your divorce, and every document you can collect will help your attorney determine how your marital property will be divided. Tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, income statements, retirement benefits, and any investments will play a major role in determining what property you receive after you separate, as well as who can receive spousal support.
- Family Budget: If you can determine how you and your spouse’s incomes were divided in running your household, it will heavily impact how your property is divided. For example, if you put more money into taking care of your children, buying groceries, and other tasks, then it can be used to determine your standard of living and financial needs post-divorce. If you do not have a detailed budget, credit card and bank statements may help show where your income went.
- Property Records: While you and your spouse may have worked together to purchase a home, new vehicles, and other property, who “officially” owns that property will play a major role in who keeps it after the divorce. Even if you acquired these items prior to marriage, deeds to a house or vehicle titles should be collected and reviewed with your attorney.
- Bills and Debts: Like marital property and incomes, debt can also be divided in a divorce; everything from credit cards to mortgages to student loans. Debt cannot simply be divided down the middle, and you and your spouse may need to close out joint accounts or plan how to pay off certain bills – otherwise, a single missed payment could affect both of your credit scores.
- Family Business: Businesses, just like houses and debt, can be subject to property division in a divorce, especially if both spouses have a stake in them. You may need to determine who has the majority of ownership or contributed to the business’s growth, as well as any losses the business has suffered.
- Marital Agreements: If you signed a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage or a postnuptial afterward, you may have a general blueprint of how your property should be divided. But these agreements are not foolproof, and your attorney (or your spouses) may contest them in court.
- Custody Plan: Discussing how to divide your time with your children can be a painful process, but it is important to come up with a custody plan You and your spouse should determine who will look after your children during holidays, weekends, and vacations, as well as their primary residence. You should also discuss who should have legal custody, meaning who can make decisions about your child’s school, medical care, and other important decisions.
- Social Media: Social media is often used as an escape, but you must remember that nothing you post is private. If you make a vague comment about the state of your marriage or your relationship with your children, it could come back to bite you. Your best option is to stay off social media during your divorce to avoid sharing private details that could be brought up in court.
Of course, there are several other factors you should consider while preparing for your divorce, but by getting a handle on these initial elements, you can make the process more streamlined.
When you work with a San Diego family law attorney at Mattis Law, A.P.C., we can guide you through this process and protect your legal rights throughout. To get started on your case and work with a top family law firm, call our office at (858) 458-9500 and schedule a free consultation.