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FamilyLawbasics[1]People thinking about a divorce don’t always get the best guidance from others when they are starting on their journey.  Well meaning friends, family members and unscrupulous attorneys may mislead you without even meaning to.  So here are some important things to think about if you are thinking about going down this path:

1.  Make sure your marriage is over

It doesn’t matter how often you threatened to get divorced in the past or ho wmuch you and your spouse discussed it.  Once you ring the bell it is very difficult to “un-ring” it.  So make sure it is what you really want (and need) to do.

2.  Get a Therapist.

There are a lot of emotions going on in a divorce and you need to be able to deal with them in order to make good decisions.

3.  Educate yourself.  

The divorce process does not make a lot of sense to regular people. If you don’t know at least something about how the court system works you will feel like you are in the dark all the time.

4.  Put your kids first.

They are basically innocent parties to this situation but they are affected by most everything that happens.  Try to keep them out of it as much as possible, and if they are asking questions, speak with someone that can tell you what kind of age appropriate answers to give them.  Do not give in to the temptation to assess blame on the other parent or anyone else when speaking with your kids.

5.  Set Goals.

We have a space on our intake forms that asks the client what their goals are. Amazing how many people leave that blank. Know what you want to end up with at the end: the house? No debt? Joint custody? It amazes me how many attorneys never seem to know what their client wants.

6.  Don’t try to go it alone.

It may take a team to deal with a divorce. You need legal advice and representation.  You need emotional support (friends, family), and you will need financial and tax guidance. Not knowing the tax consequences of your divorce can cost you thousands so speak with an accountant.

7.  Get copies of all your financial documents as soon as possible.

If your divorce is amicable, you may be able to get your documents any time.  But when it gets ugly, documents tend to go missing. Then you have to pay your attorney to obtain these.  So start gathering things immediately and make copies.

8.  Don’t file for divorce until you have considered how you want to do it. 

Starting your divorce by filing with the court starts a potentially contentious legal battle. Try discussing the situation with your spouse and see if you can settle the issues before you file, so that the filing is just a formality and you only need a lawyer to complete the paperwork.

9.  Get good legal advice

Here in St Louis County you can do your divorce yourself.  But the forms are confusing and voluminous and you run the risk that the judge may deny the divorce if something is not done properly.  If you are thinking of doing it yourself you may still want to pay for a consultation with a lawyer.  And if you have anything that is in dispute, you really should never try to handle it without a lawyer.

10.  The more you and your spouse can talk and negotiate your own settlement, the more time and money you will save in your divorce.

Lawyers charge by the hour and the court system is slow. You don’t have to like your ex or agree with them.  But the more you can talk to your ex and hammer out your own deal, the quicker, cheaper and easier your divorce will be.