The decision to get a divorce is rarely easy. No matter how much your relationship has deteriorated, you most likely loved your spouse once. Getting divorced will be a massive change in your life. Perhaps a positive one, but a big change nevertheless.
Besides the emotional upheaval, a divorce is a long, complicated legal process. You and your spouse must divide your shared assets according to Pennsylvania family law. If you have children together, you must figure out child custody or have the court do so. Things like spousal support could also come up.
While you cannot avoid these issues, you can take steps now, before filing for divorce or even telling your spouse that it’s over, to make the process easier. Here are four examples.
- Get a clear picture of your finances. Pennsylvania law requires divorcing spouses to divide their marital assets “equitably,” which essentially means fairly. With a few exceptions, marital assets include everything the two of you acquired during your marriage. In many marriages, one spouse handles financial matters like retirement savings, taxes and investments. The other spouse might not realize just how much they have in marital property. Getting copies of key documents like tax returns and statements from your bank and retirement accounts can help you understand how much you are entitled to — and if your spouse is possibly hiding assets from you.
- Start building your credit. If you have been married a long time, you might not have much recent credit history in your own name. That could make it tough to buy a house or car once you are single again. Consider taking out a credit card in your name alone to start proving you are a good credit risk. Also, close your joint accounts if you can to keep your spouse from running up a big bill that is partly in your name.
- Set a budget. Knowing what you will need to afford housing, transportation and other necessities can help you decide later on if a financial settlement is acceptable.
- Find a good divorce lawyer. Besides their experience and qualifications, make sure you choose an attorney you get along with. You will be working together closely for months, so good working chemistry matters.
The more preparation you do in advance, the easier your divorce is likely to be.