According to divorce lawyers, January is “Divorce Month.” There are plenty of reasons for why January ends up being the busiest month in which to file divorce. Usually, families want to stick it out through the holidays before making a big chance. Who knows, maybe someone’s New Year’s Resolution is to get divorced.
Whatever the reason, there are some things you need to know when you’re in the process of getting divorced. And no, we won’t put you through the, “Are you sure you want to get divorced?” question. Here are five things to know about getting a divorce.
1. Get Your Financial Documents Together
Divorce relies heavily on documentation for the purposes of things such as alimony, marital property, and child support. Financial records, phone records in some cases, mortgages, and receipts for sale are all things you might have to show to a court to prove financial status or lack thereof. Start digging around for that stuff now, whether you have copies online or in boxes somewhere. It’s always wise to make copies of physical documents, just in case.
2. Update Your Estate Plan
You probably don’t want your spouse as your power of attorney, especially if you are dumping them, or vice versa. Update your estate plan to make sure that they are stricken from the plan where you want them to be. While in some states, divorce automatically invalidates some provisions, the pre-divorce limbo period doesn’t invalidate anything.
3. Ask an Attorney about Joint Bank Accounts/Credit Cards
Joint bank accounts and joint credit cards are tricky. They might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but now they’re a mess because the finances are all tangled up. Talk to an attorney about getting the finances separated and handling the joint bank accounts. You might need to call in an accountant, but the first step is talking to an attorney.
4. Custody Issues
A lot goes into custody. The prevailing standard in most states is the best interests of the child or children, and that “best interests test” depends on a whole penumbra of factors. You will likely need to sit down and work out your work schedule, financial stability, and housing situation when you’re discussing custody. The court will look to the best interests test when determining custody. It is best to keep custody battles between you and your spouse and avoid dragging kids into back-and-forth between the two of you.
5. Know When You Are/Aren’t Single
This one’s about adultery. If you’re still legally married, it is unwise to move in with or start a relationship with someone else, as your spouse could claim that as adultery. Even if you’re living separately, some jurisdictions will look on that as adultery. Adultery doesn’t affect the division of marital property, but it can affect other considerations of the process. Save relationships and dating for when this process is over. You’ll likely be far less stressed out and better able to focus on a new relationship when the divorce is settled, at any rate.
According to the CDC, the US divorce rate is 3.2 per 1,000 people. While this is a decrease, the decrease is caused by people not getting married, as opposed to just being better at getting married. All this to say: divorce is common. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, as you are not alone through this process, though it might seem like that at times. Help is out there, and the first step is to talk to an attorney.