Once a spouse makes the decision to file for divorce, he/she should take steps in preparation for this life-altering event, which may turn out to be a long and drawn-out process. Below are the steps, generally, that a spouse should take prior to filing for divorce.
- Gather personal information and important documents: One of the first steps is to gather personal information, such as bank statements, mortgage statements, pay stubs, tax returns, retirement account information, insurance statements, credit card statements, utility bills, credit reports, and any other important documents. You should be sure to make copies of these documents and place them in a secure location. You should also forward your mail to an alternate address, especially if you receive payments or documents containing sensitive information via mail.
- Establish your own personal bank accounts: If you only have joint accounts with your spouse, set up your own separate bank account(s) at a different bank. Consult with an attorney if you have questions regarding withdrawal of funds from a joint account prior to divorce for expenses other than household bills.
- Change passwords to email and social media accounts: Spouses who plan to file for divorce should immediately change passwords to their email and social media accounts. If these accounts are shared with your spouse, you should set up individual accounts with new passwords. If you’ve saved files with personal or sensitive information on a computer that can be accessed by your spouse, be sure to change your password and save copies of those files.
- Make a budget: It is important to develop a proposed budget and evaluate your monthly income and expenses independent of the other spouse prior to filing for divorce. This information will be required as part of your case and will also be useful in assessing if any temporary and/or permanent alimony is needed.
- Discuss filing of divorce with your spouse: If possible, speak with your spouse regarding your plan to file for divorce. Discuss with him/her possible living arrangements and the handling of household expenses and other debts while the divorce is pending. You and your spouse may be able to agree on most or all of the issues, which will make the process less costly and time-consuming.