If you have decided to file for divorce or your spouse has already filed, taking time to organize your thoughts and plan next steps is essential. As with any big challenge, a checklist can set the wheels in motion and keep you on track. To help prepare, the Connatser Family Law team has created a handy divorce checklist to guide you.
10-Step Divorce Checklist
Step 1: Organize financial records and pull credit reports.
It’s important to analyze what assets and debts are at stake during a divorce. Key financial records to track down include:
- Bank accounts.
- 401ks, IRAs (individual retirement accounts), pensions and other retirement accounts.
- Investment accounts.
- Trust accounts.
- Stock portfolios.
- Safe deposit boxes.
- Insurance policies (auto, home, health, life, etc.).
- W2s and other tax documents.
- Logins and passwords for financial accounts.
It can also be helpful for both spouses to pull their credit reports to make sure all outstanding debts (credit cards, medical bills, auto loans, etc.) are taken into account.
Step 2: Hire a divorce attorney.
This step may sound obvious, but it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your divorce lawyer is the key person who will help formulate a divorce strategy to align with your goals. Interviewing multiple attorneys prior to hiring one can help ensure attorney and client are on the same page.
Check out Aubrey’s recent post, Wealthy and Getting Divorced? 6 Essential Tips for Hiring a Divorce Attorney, for additional insight.
Step 3: Set the tone early on.
If your goal is to have an amicable divorce, then you should communicate that intention from the get-go. When possible, it’s typically best to personally ask your spouse for a divorce as opposed to serving him or her with papers first. During the conversation, explain that you want to settle the divorce amicably, avoid high legal fees and treat each other fairly. Hearing these sentiments can help put your spouse’s mind at ease and get the process off to an amicable start.
If you fear for your and/or your children’s safety, take precautions. Abby provides advice in this recent post:
Step 4: Decide how and when to tell the children.
Do so with the other parent if possible. Divorce can be especially hard on children. In fact, some kids even believe they are at fault for their parents’ divorce. Psychotherapist Linda Solomon, LPC, LCDC, LMFT shares invaluable advice here: Break the News with Care: How to Tell Kids You’re Getting Divorced.
Step 5: Sort out living arrangements and budgetary details.
Obviously, you need to figure out where each spouse (and children if you have them) will live. Who stays in the family home and for how long? Will you take turns or will someone move to an apartment or live with their parents? It typically proves beneficial to establish a budget, including living expenses and any other financial obligations, during the early stages of a divorce.
Christine explains how living arrangements and other issues related to divorce are handled in her post: Calling It Quits? The Top 12 Things You Need to Know About Divorce in Texas.
Step 6: Change passwords and create a new email account.
While you can’t delete email, text, phone or social media accounts – such spoliation of evidence is illegal – you can change passwords on accounts that belong exclusively to you. This step is critical because it can deter your spouse from accessing those accounts and your private information – especially correspondence related to the divorce with your lawyer or other trusted professionals.
Step 7: Untangle yourself from the family’s cloud-based accounts.
If you, your spouse and/or your children share a cloud account (phones, tablets, computers, etc.), get a new phone and set up an account of your own. If you don’t, your spouse may be able to access your private information through the cloud or through the children’s digital devices. Aubrey provides essential information in these previous posts:
Step 8: Create a new, shared calendar if you have kids.
Your existing shared calendar may be tied to the family’s cloud account. If you’re getting divorced, it’s best to start fresh. A variety of shared calendars are available online, like Our Family Wizard. Some Texas Family Court judges actually require divorcing couples to communicate through the shared calendar available with Our Family Wizard. With shared calendars divorcing couples can keep track of their children’s:
- Extracurricular practices and events.
- Doctor appointments.
- Homework and project deadlines.
- School photo days.
- Family vacations and more.
Step 9: Consider getting a P.O. box.
If your spouse can access your personal mail at the family residence, and you don’t want him or her to do so, a P.O. box may be the ideal solution. You can limit access to yourself, so your divorce attorney and others can send written correspondence to you discreetly.
Step 10: Establish a solid support system.
Remember, your divorce attorney isn’t a therapist. He or she is your resource for legal guidance. If you need emotional support or advice on how to cope with fears, anxiety, and heartache, reach out to a family therapist or member of the clergy for insight. Close family members, friends and divorce support groups can also provide encouragement.
Don’t Stop There
While this divorce checklist is a great place to start, every divorce is unique. A reputable family law attorney can provide the comprehensive legal guidance and resources needed to address your individual circumstances.
Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2013, Aubrey Connatser and her team have firmly established the next in a line of great Texas divorce and family law firms. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call (214) 617-1583 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and compassionate member of the Connatser Family Law team.