Deciding whether (and when) to divorce your spouse is never easy. There are a lot of factors to consider: what it means for your kids, what your finances will look like, how much the process will cost, how long it will take, and how your spouse might react if divorce comes as a surprise to them. Having your ducks in a row as you start the process can help. Here are some things to think about:
- Do I know what assets I own? What about my spouse? Early in the divorce process, each spouse will have to disclose all assets – bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, stock, real estate, cars, etc. Having a sense of what you and your spouse own will help you gather the information you need in order to disclose.
- What are my current expenses? Knowing what your expenses are is important because the court will require that you submit a financial statement that sets forth your income, assets, expenses, and liabilities. However, knowing your expenses will also be relevant when discussing support because it will allow you to think about what decisions you want to make about your future living situation.
- What makes sense to do about the house? If you and your spouse can’t agree what to do with your house, the court will either allow the spouse who can afford it to keep it, or will require it to be sold. If you’re resolving your case outside of court, you may be more creative than that, allowing the spouse keeping the house more time to refinance, or continuing to co-own the house until your youngest has left for college. Knowing whether you can afford to buy out your spouse’s interest is a good first step if you think you want to keep the house.
- What do I earn? What does my spouse earn? Although it may seem obvious that knowing what both you and your spouse earn is important, many people start the divorce process without this information. Knowing both spouses’ income allows you to calculate alimony and/or child support accurately.
- What are my goals? How do I want to resolve my divorce? Are you hoping to resolve your divorce with a durable agreement? Are you and your spouse able to sit down and discuss issues? Or, are you and your spouse so far apart that you need a judge to make decisions because you can’t agree? There are many different options for resolution, but knowing what’s important to you is will help you figure out which path to choose.