So You’ve Decided to Get Divorced – Now What?
For most people, the decision to divorce is not an easy one, and it often takes a lot of time and thought to decide whether now is the right time to take that step. Once you’ve made that decision, you might be left wondering what to do next. How do you prepare for the divorce process? There are many things that you may want to consider doing in preparation for a divorce, before you confront your spouse with your decision, and before you file a summons for divorce, so that you are best prepared to move forward.
Many couples share a home computer where both spouses’ email accounts are logged into frequently. If your spouse knows your email password or has access to your email, you may not have privacy in any of your communications, including those to your divorce attorney, a therapist, or even friends and family. The best way to secure your confidential communications is to create a new email address, preferably using a different email server (for example, if you always use Gmail, consider creating a Yahoo account), that you will use only for divorce related communications. Do not log into this account on any shared computers, tablets, etc., and do not share the password with your spouse or use a password that he/she could easily guess. Similarly, you should log out of any email or social media accounts that you have logged into on a shared device, and change all of your passwords to guarantee that no one other than you will have access to these accounts going forward.
Speaking of social media, now is the time to review all of your social media accounts. If you believe custody of your children could be an issue in your divorce, make sure that your social media accounts are free of any potentially compromising posts. Even something innocent like a photo of you with friends holding an alcoholic drink might become a problem later on, so it is best to avoid those kinds of posts. If you are involved with another person, avoid any social media posts with that person. Make sure your accounts are set to private so that only your friends/followers can see them. Moving forward, think twice about posting anything that might reflect negatively at all, and assume that no matter how careful you are, your spouse will see everything you post.
At the same time, if you have concerns about your spouse’s behavior, now is the time to review his/her social media accounts and take screen shots or otherwise record any posts that are of concern to you, before he/she has the opportunity to “clean up” their accounts.
Whether it be via email, text message, social media post, or otherwise, you should take care to review what you put in writing to your spouse, or to anyone else, if that communication might find its way back to your spouse. The decision to proceed with a divorce is an emotional one and often you or your spouse may become angry and upset. Exchanging messages in writing during an argument or when you are upset might cause you to say something you don’t mean or that you wish you could not take back. It is best to just not engage in those types of communications at all. Remember, anything you put in writing can be used as evidence in court.
When your divorce proceeding gets underway, you will need to produce a significant amount of financial information. You will be required to complete a detailed financial form addressing your expenses, income, assets and liabilities, and your attorney will need to review all of your financial account statements and related documents. It is best to start preparing this information as early as possible, especially if you are unfamiliar with the details of your family’s finances or are concerned that your spouse may not be forthcoming with financial information.
Begin by reviewing your income tax returns if you have access to them. If not, request copies from your accountant. Review the mail that you receive at home and take pictures or make copies of financial documents if you do not recognize the account information or are not sure what the documents are related to. If you use a shared computer or other device, review the documents saved on the computer and make copies of those that are relevant. Obtain as much information as you can early on so that you can provide your attorney with the most complete financial picture possible.
If you’re not sure what steps you should be taking, ask! If you’ve already hired an attorney, speak to him or her about what you can do to prepare before notifying your spouse of your intention to obtain a divorce. Your attorney will likely have specific suggestions based upon your circumstances and can help you put together a plan to move forward so that you are as prepared as possible. If you haven’t retained an attorney yet, you should consider having a consultation with one as soon as possible to discuss your questions and concerns.