As Philadelphia divorce attorneys we meet a lot of people who have already made some big mistakes before they make it to us. Often, these mistakes will cost our clients time and money. Some mistakes are even severe enough to cause divorcees to lose time spent with their kids.
Fortunately, you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
Getting divorced is a process. And the process doesn’t begin when you file a Petition for Divorce. The process begins long before that, when you start realizing you’re going to divorce your spouse. If you can recognize this and take the right steps long before you announce your intentions you’ll be in a better place than most when it’s finally time to start filing petitions and motions.
#1: Get Your Head in the Game
Many divorcees are plagued by unrealistic expectations. Some also shoot themselves in the foot by allowing their emotions to take over.
So the first thing you need to do is make sure you’re as clear, logical, and calm as it’s possible to get. Then you need to adjust your expectations so you’ll be ready to weather what’s ahead.
What kinds of expectations? This topic is worth an entire post in its own right, but here are a few highlights.
- Your divorce will probably take longer than you think it will.
- Your spouse will probably fight harder than you expect.
- Your life is going to change, more than you think it will.
- Divorce rarely means a getting clean break from your spouse forever.
- You may not walk away with the assets you think you will.
- You could lose custody of your children.
- You could be the one who ends up paying child support.
- You could be the one who ends up paying alimony.
- You might find yourself tempted to fight about trivial issues for emotional reasons, and doing so could weaken your position.
Every aspect of your life may well come under a microscope. You’re going to see changes in your finances, living arrangements, and property. Your relationship with your children is going to change one way or the other. You’ll need to be logical, clear-headed, and ready for anything.
You also need to understand exactly what you’d like your divorce to look like in regards to assets, debts, child support, alimony, and child custody. This will give your attorney a starting point to begin fighting for you.
#2: Get Clear On This Point
A cheap, easy, smooth divorce is basically a unicorn. The Pennsylvania family court system is difficult to navigate. It can get overwhelming very quickly. Minor mistakes could cheat you out of money you’d otherwise be owed. Without an attorney, you can miss opportunities to take steps that might put you in a better position.
And if your spouse gets an attorney, you definitely don’t want to be the DIY Divorcee.
Your divorce is going to cost money. Put some aside before you make the big announcement.
#3: Choose Your Attorney
On the topic of attorneys it’s a good idea to start shopping for one before you ask for a divorce. In fact, Forbes reports having the ability to line up your legal team in advance is one of the biggest advantages of being the first to file.
You need an attorney you trust, someone who treats you with respect, and someone with whom you work well. You’ll need to know what kinds of legal fees to expect and what kinds of payment plans are available. You need some idea of that attorney’s track record.
Sadek and Cooper have multiple offices throughout the Philadelphia area. In each of those locations, you’ll find experienced, compassionate attorneys prepared to help you achieve your goals for this divorce. We offer free consultations and affordable payment plans, so we hope you’ll consider trusting us with your case.
#4: Gather Evidence
Divorces are a legal procedure. You could wind up in court.
People tend to forget this fact. They fail to gather the documentation they’ll need to show why the divorce should go the way they want it to. They fail to look for hidden assets and bank accounts. They miss vital documents which could help them demonstrate their parental fitness. The list goes on.
This evidence could include, but is not limited to:
- School records for your children and for any higher education pursued by either adult during the course of the marriage.
- Medical records for your children.
- Bank records for all accounts, including investment and retirement accounts
- Mortgage records and real estate deeds
- Tax returns (personal and business)
- Receipts or other records which could offer proof of ownership for property that was yours before you married.
- If you or your spouse own a business, proof of assets or liabilities held by that business.
- All legal documents related to a business owned by you or your spouse.
- Arrest records, conviction records, and driving records.
- Photos, correspondence, or other information which helps to demonstrate your relationship with your child or children.
- Birth certificates and social security information for all children.
- Information on all insurance policies.
- Credit card statements.
- Immigration documents.
Your spouse may try to make it very difficult for you to get at some of this information once the divorce is underway. Consulting with an attorney and gathering everything he or she asks for before you make your announcement is the smartest path. Remember, it’s hard to help you if you don’t help us help you.
#5: Get Your House in Order
If you have kids and want to keep custody of them you’re going to need to take a hard look at your own behavior and circumstances.
Do you have enough time for the kids? Do you maintain a clean, safe environment? Do you have new boyfriends or girlfriends who could upset the stability of the child’s life? Are you struggling with any addictions? Have you put any ill-advised photos or rants up on social media sites?
Bad habits, homes in poor repair, time constraints that keep you out of your child’s life–all of these elements impact whether a court may rule in your favor. See also: 5 Important Steps to Win Child Custody in Philadelphia. Cleaning up your act as quickly as possible could have a big impact on the eventual outcome of your case.
Every divorce is different. The best way to prepare for yours is ultimately to speak to an attorney about your divorce before you speak to your spouse. Schedule a free consultation with Sadek and Cooper today. We’ll be happy to go over all the specific steps you need to take prior to launching your divorce. That way, you’ll start this process with someone in your corner who knows how to help you put your best foot forward.