Yaffa Family Law Group
By: Doreen Yaffa

5 Things You Should Do Before You File for Divorce


Consider these thoughts before filing for divorce, which can help you in the long run.

There’s a lot more involved in divorce than simply hiring a lawyer or filing your paperwork. Consider these five tips to help you achieve a better outcome in your divorce.

Be Certain You Want to Get Divorced

Most of us don’t get married thinking it will end in divorce. Deciding to divorce is difficult and emotional. Slow down and take the time to think things through, form a place of calmness. This is challenging when emotions are high. Before filing for a divorce, it is best to first determine if you have exhausted all hope of saving the marriage. Once you start the process of divorce, by filing your petition and serving divorce papers on your spouse, it can be challenging to go back on that decision. In Florida it takes one spouse to end the marriage simply by stating that the marriage is irretrievable broken. This means that once you start the process and even if you want to go back and work on the marriage, your spouse can have different thoughts and proceed with the divorce. Therefore, giving marriage counseling or other efforts first to save the marriage is recommended before filing for divorce.

Interview Attorneys

It’s a good idea to meet with and interview more than one attorney before you decide to file for divorce. You should take your time to assure that you understand your options, not only as to which attorney you might hire, but also as to the processes that are available to get you through the divorce. During the initial interview, the attorney should be gathering the facts of your case before giving you advice. Many times, there is an intake by a paralegal so that the lawyer has some background they can review before you meet. At the consultation you should be advised on the law as it pertains to the issues in your case which might include division of assets and liabilities, support (spousal and child support) and on parenting issues. You should also be made aware of the procedures involved in getting through the divorce process. It’s important to assure that you are hiring an attorney and firm that understands you and your goals and it is one that you have a good connection with. Avoid lawyers who offer you solutions before listening to the particular facts of your case. Attorneys come at different price points and experience levels and so take your time to figure out who you think would be best to handle your case and represent your interests.

Understand and Gather Financial Documents

Divorce cases depend heavily on financial records. In Florida, the parties are required to exchange certain records, called Mandatory Disclosure. The purpose of this is to assure that you have a clear understanding of what the marital estate consists of. You are entitled to this information before entering into a settlement or going to trial. It is always helpful to the lawyer to have as much information and the backup documents organized so that you can discuss them first before filing for divorce. Make and save copies of everything that might be needed before meeting with your attorney. It’s also smart to obtain records of your shared online accounts. If you have access to joint accounts and or records, include these as well because once the case is filed, it is not uncommon for spouses to remove the other’s access to records. Saving yourself potential future headaches by getting your hands on the documents ahead of time is smart.

Determine Your Goals for Your Children

If you have a child or children together, custody related issues are likely a priority in your mind. Keep in mind that most parents end up having a custody arrangement that provides for substantial time sharing and also addresses parental responsibility. Parental responsibility in divorce is the way you will co parent as to major decisions in your child’s life after divorce. If there is a major concern as to one parents’ ability to properly care for the child, it is important that you discuss this with a lawyer during your consultation. It’s a good idea to sit down and review your child’s schedule, you and your spouse’s work schedules and what might be a workable time sharing schedule that best works for the family.

In fact, if you and your spouse can work through a plan that makes sense even before you start the divorce process this will put you way ahead of most people that file for divorce.

Figure Out Options as to Your Living Situation

Do you think it is possible to stay in the marital home with your spouse during the divorce process? Some people can do so, and others can’t. Also, in many cases the marital home may be one of the biggest assets of the marriage. Is it feasible that one spouse buy out the other’s spouses share of equity in the home or will the home likely need to be sold? Thinking about where each of you may and can reside during the pendency of the divorce and after are important decisions to contemplate. It may be in line to meet with a trusted realtor to see what your options look like before filing for divorce. Deciding what your goals are for your living situation is important and something that you want to share with your attorney so that you can assure that you posture in the best way to achieve these goals.

Thinking about and being prepared before a divorce is filed is smart and can help to avoid costly issues later. Divorce is emotional and so assure that you are taking care of yourself physically and mentally. Just as important as hiring the right attorney and obtaining relevant financial documents is surrounding yourself with people you can trust and who support you. If you have the financial means, it can help to speak with a therapist or other mental health professional. Remember that your lawyer is not your therapist but instead is there to get you the best possible legal result. Having emotional stability will help you to be better prepared so that you can make smarter decisions with your attorney and hopefully reach a settlement that best serves you and your child(ren)’s future.