Divorce is a stressful and complicated process, which can take longer than expected. The only requirement for you to file for divorce is to be separated from your spouse for one year. However, there are other things you must do to prepare for the divorce process and protect your legal rights and interests.
Before filing for divorce, you’ll need to make tough decisions in a short time.
10 things you need to do to make the divorce process easier
Be Sure You Want to Get Divorced
Although this may seem obvious, the decision to get a divorce is stressful and you shouldn’t make it while you’re overly emotional. Ensure you’ve exhausted all hope of reconciliation before filing for a divorce. Because once you serve your spouse with the divorce papers, it may be daunting to go back, even if you’ve changed your mind. A family court can grant a divorce if only it’s only one party that wants to end the marriage. Thus, if you wish to try marital counseling, do so before you file for divorce.
Hire a Good Divorce Attorney
To find the best divorce lawyer to help you navigate the divorce process, it’s a brilliant idea to interview many attorneys before you decide to file for divorce. It’s good to work with a divorce attorney that fits your style and understands your goals for litigation. Avoid attorneys who give you solutions before listening to the facts of your case.
Divorce lawyers come at different price points and experience levels. Thus, if your divorce is likely to be contested or deals with specific types of assets, look for a qualified family law attorney to handle your particular case. The best way to know your legal rights under South Carolina law is to hire a divorce lawyer who can guide you through this stressful and complex process.
Determine Where You Stand Financially
Before you file for a divorce, it’s essential to know where you and your spouse stand financially. One of the fundamental goals of the divorce process is to ensure equitable distribution of marital assets and debts. Thus, to get your fair share during divorce settlement negotiations, it’s crucial to know all your finances beforehand.
First, establish what you own. Some marital assets are obvious. For instance, it’s clear that your home, cars, and any financial accounts you and your spouse should be divided equitably between the two of you. However, other assets aren’t so obvious, including pension plans, retirement accounts, artwork, inheritance, or property brought into the marriage.
Next, determine your debt. It’s doesn’t matter whose name the debt is in, any money owed will be divided based on who can pay the debt. The best way to determine marital debt is to get a copy of your credit report because any debt you have will be listed there.
Collect Proof of Income
Before you file for divorce, you must have documents showing you and youse spouse’s income. If you and your spouse are salaried employers, then you must have copies of your most recent pay stubs and your most recent Income tax return.
However, if you and your spouse are self-employed, it’s difficult to determine income. In such a situation, copies of bank account statements and financial business statements will show your income. Even though you can only get an estimate of your spouse’s true income, collect as much information as possible and your divorce attorney will help you get the rest.
Establish Your Goals for Child Custody
If you and your spouse have minor children from the marriage, their custody situation will probably be at the forefront of your mind when getting a divorce. Before filing for divorce, you must know that an absent extreme situation will make you and your spouse share custody of the children. Thus, before you file for divorce, sit down and carefully review your work schedules, your children’s work schedule, and your other obligations, and then come up with your desired schedule for child custody.
If you can come with a child custody arrangement that gives both you and your spouse time with your children, your divorce will go smoothly and you’ll be ahead of most people who file for divorce.
Establish Credit in Your Name
Once your divorce is final, it might be difficult to buy a home or a car because you may have shared credit with your former spouse for many years. Thus, it’s essential to establish your own and build a good credit score. If you have no credit in your name, establish some before you file for divorce. One way to do this by getting a credit card that’s in your name only.
Assess any Joint Bank Accounts
It’s common for spouses to raid joint bank accounts once they learn there’s an impending divorce. Often, this happens out of anger and sometimes it’s done on the advice of an adversarial family law attorney. Whatever the case, it’s crucial to protect yourself and keep your spouse from cleaning out any joint financial accounts you have together. If you fear your spouse may empty your joint accounts, protect yourself by opening accounts in your name alone, remove half the funds from your joint financial accounts, and deposit them into your new account.
Don’t hide the fact that you have done this and also don’t spend the money foolishly. Document every single penny you spend so that it’ll be accounted for during settlement negotiations or trial. If you have money market accounts, saving accounts, or type of investment account and you fear your spouse might tamper with those, too, have the accounts frozen. Of course, it’s essential to discuss any action you plan to take regarding joint financial accounts with your divorce lawyer.
Close Joints Credit Accounts
If possible, before you and your spouse separate, pay off and close all joint credit accounts. Closing joint credit accounts before divorce proceedings will keep you and your spouse from using the accounts, however, this will run up charges you may later be held liable for.
If you can’t pay off your joint credit accounts in full, negotiate with your creditor to pay less than what’s owed on an account. Once you do this, get a letter from the creditor that shows the account has been paid in full and a written promise that they won’t file anything derogatory about the account to the credit reporting agencies.
However, if you can’t pay off the balances owed or reach a settlement agreement with the creditor, freeze the accounts. Although this will keep you from using the accounts, it’ll protect you in the long run. After the divorce is final, the balance owed on the credit account can be transferred to the party the court holds responsible for the debt.
Also, contact and alert creditors you’re going through a divorce. If there’s a change of address, notify them so that you’ll continue to receive bills from all your joint credit accounts.
Further, make sure all credit card bills are being paid. Divorce proceedings can take months or even years, and all it takes is one late payment to hurt your credit score.
Create a Post-Divorce Budget
Before you file for divorce, you must also figure out your post-divorce budget. This will help you determine what you’ll have to live on once you’re divorced. Also, this will help you figure out what your cost of living will be once the divorce is final. Because once you’re divorced your income may drop significantly, it’s best to be prepared by creating a budget now instead of being hit over the head with bills you can’t pay later.
To create your post-divorce budget, start by estimating your expenses; this’ll give you an idea of how much income you’ll need to support yourself. Knowing this information is essential because it will help in your divorce settlement negotiations. Knowing what you’ll need financially will also help you evaluate your settlement options. Also, it will help you know what to ask for should your case go to trial.
Decide Whether to Stay or Move Out
Unless your spouse is abusive, don’t move out of your marital home until after your divorce is finalized. Even though you may feel the need to live separately from your spouse, there are many reasons to stay.
One, moving out could affect your interest in the marital house. Because once you move out and your spouse pays the mortgage the entire time your divorce case is pending, the family court will factor that into any decision they make about the distribution of marital property.
However, if the situation is too stressful, and you decide to move out, make sure you continue paying a portion of the mortgage payment. Also, document all the payments you make towards the mortgage.
Second, if you have minor children and you wish to remain in the marital home until they finish school, the last thing you should do is leave the property. Because if your spouse’s income is more than yours and you want to negotiate for them to pay the mortgage or part of the mortgage, you’ll lose your ability to negotiate to keep the house once you leave.
So, moving out of your marital home can hurt your divorce case. Don’t move out before discussing the issue with your divorce lawyer because in some states a family court judge will consider a motion from your divorce attorney for temporary possession of the marital house pending divorce court. Discuss your legal options with your divorce lawyer.
However, if you’re living with an abusive spouse, and you can’t get an order of temporary possession, then it’s crucial to take the steps to protect yourself. Only leave the marital home if you feel your life or your children’s lives are in danger. If your spouse has a history of domestic violence, discuss this with your lawyer because they may have your spouse legally removed from the marital home.
Contact the Experienced South Carolina Divorce Attorneys at Greenville Family Attorneys for Legal Advice!
Once you have everything in place, it’s time to contact your divorce lawyer. Your divorce attorney will go over everything you have done so far to prepare for your divorce case, and he or she will point out anything you may have missed. The primary goal of our family law attorneys in Greenville is to protect our client’s best interests. Our team of dedicated and experienced Greenville divorce lawyers will be there for you every step of the way to answer your questions and make sure you are on the right track.
To schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at (864) 475-9393 or chat with us online to learn how we can help.