Sometimes you don’t have a choice, and you are blindsided by your spouse filing a divorce or you don’t have time to plan for safety or other reasons and must immediately hire a divorce lawyer and file. However, if you are the person who plans to file for the divorce, or you know your spouse is going to drag his or her feet on hiring the lawyer to file a divorce on their behalf, there are certain things you can do in advance of the filing to make it easier to adjust to the divorce and separation.
Read below to get some tips from Nashville divorce and employment lawyer Morgan Smith to make your divorce go more smoothly and be less stressful:
Know your divorce rights under Tennessee law in advance. Once a divorce is underway, there are statutory restrictions that will prevent you from doing things without court involvement which means delay. (Read more: So you just got served with divorce papers – The Statutory Injunction).
If possible always consult with a divorce attorney in your area before doing anything. They will be able to give you details on what to expect, and you can go ahead and make payment arrangements so you are prepared in case your spouse moves first or to make sure you have pricing properly accounted for before you take the plunge and tell your spouse you want a divorce. They will let you know if you need to speak with an estate lawyer in advance or a CPA, or if the divorce lawyer can handle everything (it all depends on your specific divorce). They will also discuss timing the divorce with you to maximize your results. For example, if your spouse had stayed at home for years and was about to start working again, wait until they start working to file for divorce. Likewise, if your spouse is about to quit a job because they don’t want to work anymore, you would file your divorce quickly.
Begin copying all important documents. It is amazing how magically tax documents, lease agreements, paychecks, incriminating emails, etc. disappear once a divorce has been filed. Hopefully, you went ahead and retained a divorce lawyer. If you did, go ahead and send a copy of the items to your divorce attorney for safe keeping.
Password protect your cell phone and make sure any personal email accounts or other accounts to not use an easily guessable password. The last thing you want after filing for divorce is your spouse to make a Facebook post on your own page with embarassing photos or other nasty things.
Store some cash and get a credit card in your name only. This will help you get through the initial transition and make sure that you have some credit in your name only that can be used to pay for attorney fees, moving expenses, or divorce experts for trial. Even though your spouse is not supposed to raid a bank account, it takes time to get them into court and get the money back. You will need enough to get you through the time it takes to get in court and then get the money.
When you are ready to file, you may want to talk to your spouse. See if you can work it out and have an uncontested divorce, or perhaps come to an agreement about who pays for what after a spouse moves out of the marital residence. Do not tip your spouse off though before you are ready to file. I often advise by Nashville divorce clients to have the complaint signed and ready to go in my office so that we can file it immediately if necessary.
If you have been a stay at home spouse, began preparing to go back to work. If you need to retool, go ahead and get enrolled in the classes so that you can provide the court with exact numbers and time frames for things like transitional alimony. However, if you have been working do not quit your job and start school right before a divorce without consulting with an attorney first because if there is not enough money to go around or you are not an alimony client you could be in a bad spot and not receiving any alimony.
If you have children, ask around and make sure you have a good referral for a child therapist in case the children have issues adjusting or your spouse acts a fool and puts the kids in the middle. Your divorce will be easier on the kids if they have someone to talk to about the situation. Do not start alienating the kids. They should know nothing about the facts and situations in your divorce except that you and your spouse are separating.
Make sure to keep records of everything going on, from who is actually caring for the kids to what time at night your spouse comes home, if you plan to use it at court. If your divorce lawyer does not obtain a favorable settlement, you will be going to trial, but not before you have had eighteen months to forget everything that had been happening. Judges will want dates and times so make a record.
Most importantly, don’t listen to your spouse. They are going to try to lead you astray once the divorce is filed. I can’t tell you how many times I have had clients call me with things like “my spouse said his lawyer told me it was okay to move out” or “my spouse said I am not going to get anything and I’m going to starve if I don’t dismiss my divorce.” Guess what? 99% of the time the things they are saying are not true. Ask your divorce attorney first.