1. Research State Law
Later in the process, you can consult an attorney to get more specific questions answered, but to start with, it’s a good idea to get an overview of the divorce laws in the state where you live. Do your own research on reputable sites rather than asking friends or family, even if they have been through something similar. Their situation is not your own, and they may misremember or be misinformed. Look up such things as whether you live in a community property state and how spousal and child support are calculated.
2. Review Your Finances
It is a good idea to gather copies of as many financial records as possible. This might include recent tax returns, bank statements, retirement account statements, and any information on investments. You may want to make a list of all your assets. Start cutting back on your spending. Take a look at your debts and see if you can pay them off. You might be able to refinance any student loans and pay less overall each month. Think about what your post-divorce budget might look like, keeping in mind that it is usually cheaper to share a household with your spouse than to live on your own. What you should not do is clear out any joint accounts or try to conceal any of your assets. This might be illegal and could backfire on you. However, if all of your accounts are shared with your spouse, you may want to consider opening a bank account and applying for a credit card in your own name.
3. Consult Attorneys
Many attorneys offer free or low-cost initial consultations. This can give you the opportunity to get some of your questions answered and also to get a sense of different lawyers and how they work to help you choose the ones you are the most comfortable with. Be sure to ask what they charge. The more information you bring into these consultations the more productive they will be. While an attorney cannot guarantee any particular kind of divorce outcome, they may be able to talk to you about how property is likely to be divided up, whether you might pay or be paid spousal support and how child custody might be determined. You may also want to discuss the likelihood of being able to reach an agreement with your spouse on these topics through negotiation instead of having to go before a judge who decides.
4. Consult A Counselor
Even if you are certain that you do want to get a divorce, you might want to consult a marriage counselor. A counselor’s office can potentially be a space in which to work out some of the issues around the divorce, either with your spouse or on your own. This in turn could make the divorce process less difficult.