Deciding to end a marriage is not a decision to be taken lightly. As with any major decision, it is important to prepare for the process.
1) Make sure divorce is the answer.
Often couples make threats to terminate the marriage before weighing all other, less drastic options. Counseling can be beneficial for a couple, even if divorce is the outcome. Separation alone can lead to a new appreciation for each other, and the relationship. Once you are sure divorce is the best option, proceed down the list.
If you haven't already, confirm with your spouse that the marriage is over. It is best to physically separate; however, financial hardships may make that impossible. In that case, make your intentions clear, as the “date of separation” is an important factor when dividing marital property.
3) Consult a Family Law Attorney
This is not to say you need to immediately retain an attorney, but you should seek a short consultation ion so you understand the process and the steps involved in obtaining a dissolution. If possible, speak with more than one so that when/if you are ready to retain a lawyer, you know what type of person you want to represent you.
4) Save your pennies.
Divorce does not have to be the most expensive experience, but it can be. It can also take time. Make sure you have funds available for living expenses, etc. Also, make sure you keep an accounting of those funds: where the funds are from and what is being spent on what. This will make preparing financial disclosures much easier when the time comes.
5) Copy all important documents.
If you manage the family funds this may be simple. If not, it is important that you review and copy all important documents or you may not even know the extent of your marital property. Important documents include tax returns, bank statements, loan documents, mortgage documents, titles, retirement accounts, credit reports, etc.
6) Inventory the family home.
Know what you have and what you want. There are even professional companies that can inventory for you which is ideal if you have a lot of artwork, or valuable furniture that was purchased during the marriage.
7) Open separate accounts.
After separation, it is import to open your own checking and savings accounts. It is not uncommon for couples to maintain one joint account for children's expenses or family debts, but after separating, your income should be separate.
8) Change your mailing address.
If you are the one to leave the family home, make sure to change your address. If you are staying with friends and family, a PO Box works nicely as a permanent location until your divorce and living situation is finalized.
9) Review will and medical directives.
You probably do not want your ex making your emergency medical decisions during divorce proceedings. It's important to update your beneficiaries.
10) Stay positive.
A divorce is just like people; they're all different. You can only control so much of the process. You can, however, control your attitude and the energy you exert. Staying positive is the best way to reach a positive outcome, free of unnecessary conflict.