The decision to file for divorce from your spouse is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make in your life.
It will have a profound effect on you. It will have a significant impact on your children.
One of the most common questions people struggle with is deciding what they should do before they file for divorce. That is what this article is about.
1. Seek Counseling
If you ever come to my office for a consultation, one of the questions I will ask you is whether you and your spouse have sought counseling.
There are two reasons I ask that question.
First, many marriages have reached a point where simple problems have simmered and grown into something much bigger than they really are. Often, with a little help from a third party, those problems can be solved.
The second reason is that when you make the decision to file for divorce, that is a bell that cannot be unrung.
Sure, you and your spouse may decide to abandon the divorce and try again. But the fact that one of you filed for divorce will remain, and it will be that much easier for either of you to file again in the future.
If your spouse refuses counseling, then you should go alone.
See if your spouse might decide to participate after you have shown the effort of going that road alone.
You never know, maybe you will learn something about yourself that you could use to help save your marriage.
If you aren’t sure where to look for a counselor, then try one of these sites:
2. Talk To A Lawyer
Do not go into the divorce process alone. Do not file for divorce until you understand the divorce process, the laws, and what you should expect.
Even if you decide to file for divorce on your own, you should at least talk to a divorce lawyer first before making that decision.
Learn about the law.
Learn about your rights.
Get educated on the divorce process.
3. Do Not Give Up On Your House Or Other Property
Do not move out of your house before filing for divorce. The sole exception is in cases where you feel your safety or the safety of your children is at risk if you stay.
Until a court issues an order, there is nothing in the law that states you are required to leave the house and let your spouse stay.
Once you leave it is harder to get back into the house.
You will still be financially responsible for the costs associated with the house as well as the costs involved in finding a new residence.
So do not leave the house before filing for divorce.
4. Do Not Admit Fault
This one is tricky, especially given the first tip in this article about seeking marriage counseling. If you are seeking counseling then you might think that you need to be completely honest with your spouse.
I understand the feeling. You think that if you just come clean, then maybe you can start over and everything will work out with you and your spouse.
You think finally opening up completely and sharing the brutal honest truth will fix your broken marriage.
This could mean admitting to adultery. This could mean admitting to financial indiscretions. This could mean admitting to any number of things.
But do not admit to anything.
When it comes to counseling, the issues you need to address are about your relationship with your spouse and not specific acts of indiscretion in the past. Those acts are the symptoms, not the cause, of your marital problems.
If you and your spouse are headed for divorce before your spouse learns about your infidelity or any other mistakes, then guess what – he or she isn’t going to forgive you when you admit to them.
Your admission just might be the final straw that causes your spouse to file for divorce.
Then your spouse and his or her attorney will absolutely use your admission against you.
The fact is that many divorce cases settle well before any discovery takes place in the case. This means well before your spouse would learn about your mistakes during the divorce.
Well before those mistakes could be used against you in negotiating a settlement.
Don’t make the case more complicated. Don’t put yourself in a worse position.
Resist the temptation and do not admit fault.
5. Safeguard Your Assets and Protect Your Privacy
This is similar to my recommendation that you not leave your home.
Locate any items of particular value. Identify those items. Take pictures and make a list of those items.
This means things like particular pieces of jewelry, family heir looms, gun collections, or other items with significant value whether monetarily or sentimentally.
Inevitably items of value, especially smaller items of personal property, have a tendency to disappear during the divorce.
Find those items. Secure those items.
Then protect your privacy.
This means changing email passwords, computer passwords, phone PINs, and any other devices that have information you no longer want to share with your spouse.
Don’t assume your spouse does not know your password, just change it.
BONUS: Get Organized For Your Divorce
If all else fails, make sure you are organized for your divorce.
I wrote an article on Getting Organized For Your Divorce with over 24 specific actions you should take to make sure that you are prepared when the time comes to file for divorce.
Read it. Take action. Be Prepared.