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Pacific States Legal Group

Divorce and Personal Injury Lawyers

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Top 10 Things to Do Before Filing for Divorce

No one gets married with the intention of things not working out, but it's an unfortunate fact that many marriages don't work out in the end.  For those who are in troubled marriage, here are the Top 10 things you should do before filing for a divorce. And whether you're a client or not, from all of us here at Pacific States Legal Group, we hope that this checklist can help you through tough times.

1. Make Every Effort to Make it Work

It might seem obvious, but far too many people forget that great relationships take hard work. Perhaps your relationship has gone through recent strain, or you're having a hard time finding that spark again, but whatever the case may be, we urge you to first try every way you can think of to save the marriage. One great way to get your relationship back on track is couples or marital counseling. Sometimes just getting a professional 3rd point of view is enough to get things working again. 

What most people don't know is that once you file for divorce, it's hard to go back even if you change your mind. Also, a court can grant a divorce even if only one of you wants to dissolve your marriage. So, all things considered, do everything you can to make it work.

2. Interview Divorce Lawyers

Here at Pacific States Legal Group, we are of course very proud of the good work we have done for our clients, and are confident that we are the best team to represent you in these tough times. Still, it's important to interview more than one attorney before you file for divorce. It's not just about what divorce lawyer has the most experience or favorable outcomes, it's very important that your personality matches with your attorney's. If you are filing for a mutually-desired divorce, there might not be much complexity to your case, and so hiring someone who you really get along with might be more important. Whereas, if you think your divorce might be more complicated (involving contested assets, custody, etc), then you also need to make sure your attorney has a lot of experience in these situations.

3. Get Your Financial Documents Together

Before you file for divorce, and even before you hire your divorce attorney, get all of your phone records, bank/financial account records, and mortgage documents in order. This will save you time [and money] if you already have a lot of this organized to give to your divorce lawyer for review. Be sure to get records of all shared accounts as well.

It's a tragic truth, but if you're going through a non-mutual divorce, once you serve your spouse with divorce papers, he or she may take measures to make it more difficult for you to compile all the paperwork you will need.

4. Buy and Sell Things You Need To

Most people don't realize this, but once you file for divorce, most courts will prohibit you or your spouse from buying or selling any major items that would be considered marital property. There's good reason for this--it's to prevent either spouse from emptying bank accounts or selling off the martial properties for revenge. That said, if you've been planning to sell any major property or make a major new purchase (e.g. a new car), you should do this before you file for divorce. 

It's important to note, that just because you haven't filed yet, it's not wise to empty bank accounts etc, as these actions can come back to bite you in the rear end. Also, doing such things can further aggravate an already difficult situation, and can thus lead to an even more difficult divorce.

5. Establish Your Next Living Situation

Before filing for divorce, it's important to figure out where you're going to go next. Maybe you expect your spouse to move out, or vice versa, but getting this situated beforehand is key to a smooth transition once the divorce goes into motion.

6. Don't Start Dating Until After the Divorce

You may be in an amicable breakup, or it might be contentious, but regardless of whether you think it's OK or not, do not start dating until after the divorce. Many courts will consider any other relationships adultery, regardless of whether or not you and your spouse are already separated. This can make splitting your assets more difficult, especially if you spent any money on the other relationship.

7. Put Together Your Assets and Debts

Put together a full balance sheet listing all of your assets and debts. This should include are physical assets like cars and real estate, along with all financial assets like retirement accounts, stocks, etc. Also list all debts such as mortgages, credit cards, etc.

8. [If you have children] Figure Out Your Custody Goals

Unless there are extreme circumstances, you need to know that you and your spouse are likely going to be sharing custody. Since everyone's lives and schedules are different, it would be a good thing to actually write out your current schedules along with that of your children, so you can figure out what custody situation would be optimal. This is an often-overlooked aspect of divorce, so if you and your spouse can figure this out between yourselves, you will greatly speed up the legal process.

9. [Once you hire a divorce lawyer] Figure Out Your Joint Accounts

You and your spouse may have joint bank and credit card accounts, so once you hire your divorce lawyer, you should speak with them about what to do with these accounts. There are circumstances where it makes sense to close these accounts immediately, and there are other scenarios where keeping them open and untouched is the smart thing to do. So, be sure to leave them alone until you speak with your attorney.

10. Have A Support Network

Getting divorced is a very emotional time--even when amicable. It's a time when you and the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with suddenly decide to walk away from that plan. So, while it's important to get all of the above items on your checklist marked off, it's equally important to have your support network of close friends and family