If you are considering divorce, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the decisions, emotions, and life changes the process involves. Because getting a divorce is such a big step, there are some things you should think about before you move forward.
Can you repair your marriage?
Before you go to the time, expense, and angst of going through a divorce, think long and hard about whether your marriage can be fixed. Try marriage therapy. If your spouse won’t go, see a counselor yourself for assistance. It is worth a few months of therapy to try to fix a marriage you’ve put so much into. Another option is to just stay. You need to weigh whether you can live a happy life in your current situation and if the compromises necessary are worth it. You may also consider a separation which allows you to remain married, but live apart physically and financially.
How much does divorce actually cost?
There is no one-size-fits-all divorce, so there are a wide range of possible cost breakdowns. An uncontested divorce will be the fastest and least expensive. A mediated divorce will be less costly than letting your lawyers settle a contested divorce, and a trial is the most expensive option. Be prepared to spend anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands, depending on which option you choose.
Where do you file for divorce?
Every state has residency laws for divorce filings and you generally need to have lived there several months or have gotten married there to be eligible to file for divorce in the state. When determining how to file for divorce, you must file papers in the county of your residence in that state.
What do you own?
Although divorce is a massive emotional upheaval, from a legal perspective, filing for divorce is mostly a financial transaction. The assets you brought into the marriage will leave with you for the most part, but almost everything either of you have earned, bought, or obtained during the marriage has to be divided. Make a list of all the major assets of your marriage and attach a value to them. This list is going to be split in half between you in community property states and divided fairly in equitable distribution states. Think about what it will mean to walk away with your share. Is it enough?
What do you owe?
Debts are also divided when you file for divorce. If you came in with a debt, you leave with it. Debts entered into during marriage must be split—half and half in community property states, fairly in others. Make a list of your total debts and consider how you will manage paying for half of them. Keep in mind that it may make sense to cancel some debts out by selling property—for example, selling the marital home will get rid of the mortgage.
What are you entitled to?
In addition to property and debt, there are other financial considerations when deciding should I get a divorce. If you have children, child support is an issue. Take a look at your state’s child support standards to find out how much child support would be ordered in your situation. Alimony is another important financial consideration. In most situations it is paid on a temporary basis to a spouse who needs education, training, or time to become viable in the workplace in order to become self-supporting. In some instances it can be paid for life to a spouse who is elderly or disabled. Alimony and child support can significantly impact your financial life moving forward.
How are you going to survive financially?
Perhaps the biggest hurdle to deciding should I get divorced is finding a way to stay on your feet financially. When you’re married, there are X amount of dollars coming into the family to pay the bills for one home. When you divorce, there are still only X dollars to divide among you, but they must now pay for two homes. This is a huge increase in expenses. Make a budget for yourself to see what your income and expenses really will be and determine if you can find a way to make it work.
Are you protecting yourself?
No matter how amicable your divorce, you are the only one looking out for your interests now. Don’t believe what your ex tells you. Do things now to protect yourself, such as opening separate bank accounts and credit cards and closing joint accounts and safe deposit boxes. Get copies of all financial documents and download anything online in case the password gets changed. Change your own passwords on everything. Change the locks if your ex has moved out.
What’s best for the kids?
If you have children, custody is an emotional and difficult issue. Learn about legal and physical custody and think about what arrangement would be best for your children. What you want and what would benefit them most may not be the same thing. Think about whether you and your ex can co-parent effectively and what you will need to do to help your children through the divorce.
What do you really want?
The bottom line question you need to address is what is it that you personally truly want and need right now emotionally, financially, and legally. Your lawyer, friends, family, and co-workers all have opinions. But in the end, you are the one who has to live with the decisions you make.
Divorce is a complex issue and is never an easy decision. Take the time to consider all the issues involved and be patient with yourself as you work through the ups and downs of the decision-making process.
If you and your spouse agree on the major issues, an uncontested online divorce may be right for you. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney to get advice or help filing for divorce with the LegalZoom personal legal plan.
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