Divorce is an overwhelming and emotional process, to say the least. Many people who get divorced have never and will never have any other interaction with the legal system. All of your friends and family, with the best intentions, suddenly become divorce “experts” and are ready to weigh in with what they think you need to do!
First of all, if you feel safe and comfortable doing so, talk with your spouse. If you are on the same page, you may be able to resolve your divorce without litigation, which will ultimately be much less costly and stressful in the long run.
Seriously consider speaking with a counselor or therapist, even if you have never done that in your life. When you have been in an unhealthy relationship for a long time, it becomes difficult to trust your own reality, so it really helps to weigh out this important decision with someone who is well-trained and objective. A therapist can go a long way with helping you develop the communication strategies and confidence to get through what might be one of the most difficult times in your life.
Familiarize yourself with your finances and know where your important papers are, or obtain copies of them. Some examples of important papers are birth certificates, wills, deeds, tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements and credit card statements. When you are getting divorced, it is of utmost importance to know your own income and your spouse’s income, what you have, and who and what you owe! If you are concerned there may be debts you don’t know about, you need to run your credit report to make sure your spouse has not used your information to obtain credit in your name.
Be aware that, if divorce is imminent, then you and your spouse will be adversaries in a lawsuit and they may not have your best interests at heart. They may be trying to maneuver or obtain evidence to gain a tactical advantage against you in the case. Be aware that they could be recording you via audio or video, or even monitoring your email or social media accounts if they have access to your passwords. Everything you say, do, or post on the internet could potentially be evidence in your case, so be smart and cautious about what you say, do, and post.
Above all else, get your own independent legal advice by consulting with a lawyer, even if your divorce is “amicable.” Your own lawyer is the only person whose job it is to zealously advocate for you and protect your best interests.