There is a lot involved with getting a divorce other than finding the right divorce attorney for you. Not only is it a lot emotionally, but it comes with piles of documents. Although this process can take many months, knowing how to best prepare for the divorce process can be helpful. Here are five (5) steps to take when preparing for your divorce:
1. Gather your financial information
In the divorce process, you and your spouse will need to have a clear understanding of where your finances are to assist in determining the distribution of marital assets and debts. In a Florida divorce, both parties fill out what it called a Family Law Financial affidavit. See Florida Financial Affidavit. Pursuant to Florida Statute 12.285, all divorces other than simplified divorces require parties to file a financial affidavit and serve it upon the other spouse within forty-five (45) days of the filing of the initial divorce pleading. See Florida Rule 12.285
Your financial affidavit will outline what you and your spouse own personally and jointly, including the marital home or investment properties, bank accounts, vehicles, etc. Gather all documents regarding each asset you own personally or in joint names with your spouse. Not only will you have to determine what you own, but also what you and your spouse owe.
2. Determine you and your spouse’s income
Determining you and your spouse’s income from all sources is very important in the divorce process. The Florida case Seward v. Seward, 676 So. 2d 49, 49 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996), stated that the “court has broad discretion to award temporary costs and attorney’s fees in a dissolution action based upon the parties’ respective need and ability to pay.” See Nichols v. Nichols, 519 So.2d 620 (Fla.1988); Florida Statute 61.16; Florida Statute 61.08.
If either you or your spouse are salaried employees, you can provide copies of your recent paystubs and Income Tax Return. On the other hand, if either of you are self-employed, determining your income will be more difficult. In this case, providing copies of your bank statements will determine your income. Depending on you and your spouse’s income, there are two (2) different types of financial affidavits you may need to fill out and file. See Florida Long Form Financial Affidavit and Florida Short Form Financial Affidavit.
3. If necessary, protect financial accounts
In some divorce cases, a spouse upon learning there is an impending divorce may “attack” the financial accounts, draining or wasting the marital funds. If you have a fear of this occurring, it is best to protect yourself by opening bank accounts in your own name and taking half of the funds from the joint accounts and depositing the funds into your new personal accounts. It is important to not hide that you have done this or spend this money carelessly.
4. Find a place to live
If you and your spouse share a marital residence, determine whether you want to stay in the home and if so, if you can afford the bills that some along with that. Or, if you choose you want to move out of the home, find a place to live. If you have children, always keep them in mind as you do not want to uproot their lives in every way possible if some of those ways can be avoided.
5. Get a team together for yourself
Divorce is a difficult time in many people’s lives, and it helps when you have a team of supportive friends and family around you. You do not have to go through this alone. Find people who can support you in different areas of the divorce process. It is also important to remember that your attorney is not your therapist, and your therapist is not your friend. You need friends and family that can help you emotionally, physically, legally, and maybe even financially.