If you hope to maintain your quality of life and preserve your sanity during your divorce, there are many things you need to do to prepare for it. Divorce is a major life event, and it can cause significant financial hardship for those who don’t have a plan. Pre-divorce planning with an attorney can help you ensure you check all the necessary tasks off your to-do list before your divorce begins.
Pre-divorce planning is an in-depth process where an individual considering or preparing for divorce consults an attorney to gather the necessary documents and create a plan to protect his or her business and personal assets. Anyone can utilize pre-divorce planning to make his or her divorce go more smoothly. It is especially recommended for those with substantial assets, and for professionals like physicians, business owners, and executives. These careers tend to have many additional financial considerations to address prior to a divorce.
When you meet with a pre-divorce planning attorney in Edina, you should be prepared to complete several unique “phases” during the process. Each phase allows your attorney to better represent you and your needs during the upcoming divorce. Follow the steps below to check the “to-dos” off your pre-divorce checklist.
Assess Your Circumstances
During the assessment phase, your attorney should begin to gather all the information necessary to help you get through your divorce. He or she will ask you about your marriage, your financial background, and your career. This is primarily a time for you to start feeling comfortable with your attorney and for you to formulate a plan of action together.
When I first meet with a pre-divorce planning client, I make sure he or she understands the sometimes-complicated process of divorce by explaining all the necessary steps in the dissolution process, such as discovery, temporary hearings, mediation, experts, and trial. I also ensure my client knows the cost of each step along the way so there are no surprises later on.
Compile the Necessary Documents
The next step before your divorce is to collect the financial documents needed to demonstrate your financial circumstances before and during your marriage. Your attorney will ask for the specific paperwork they need from you, but you can generally assume you’ll need to compile the following as a bare minimum:
- bank statements
- retirement accounts
- investment accounts
- life insurance policies
- your will and estate plan
- real estate property
- credit card statements
Your financial records will affect so many of the decisions you and your spouse make during the divorce. Many of us think of distribution of assets as the primary goal of a divorce, but there are also things like spousal maintenance and child support that can be affected by the financial information you provide. If you’re unsure whether you’ll end up paying any of these ongoing expenses, make sure to promptly collect your financial paperwork so you can discuss your concerns with your family law attorney Edina.
Address Child Custody and Parenting Time Concerns
If you’re a parent, you should set aside some time during your pre-divorce planning meetings to discuss any concerns you have about how the divorce will affect your children. Child custody is most parents’ primary concern when divorcing. Ultimately, the court wants to see that the custody arrangement you land on with your co-parent is in the child’s best interest. Your Edina child custody attorney can help you gather evidentiary support to argue for the parenting time that will be best for your family. He or she should also explain the following:
- Purpose and role of a custody evaluator
- Pros and cons of using a non-attorney custody evaluator
- Cost of hiring a custody evaluator
- Purpose of a parenting coach
- Whether a parenting coach is necessary
- Proven methods for demonstrating what’s in your child’s best interest
- How child support is determined
Prepare for Adverse Tactics
The cutthroat side of divorce is often portrayed in pop culture as the norm. In reality, many divorces are not adversarial, and spouses can sometimes cooperate to get what they both want. When you are getting a divorce, you should hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
If you can manage to have a more cooperative divorce with your spouse, it can be a major time- and money-saver. However, your attorney should also prepare you for the alternative during pre-divorce planning. In this case, the alternative means adversarial tactical maneuvers. For example, some spouses will try to close bank accounts or withdraw and hide away their marital assets when they believe a divorce is imminent. They may also quit paying familial expenses out of spite or strategy before the divorce is finalized. Don’t let these tactics work for your spouse; discuss how to identify and avoid them with your attorney.