Occasionally a marriage will fall apart overnight.
For example, one spouse may be blindsided by unforgivable behavior by the other spouse. Most people have some time to prepare for divorce, though. Here are some thoughts on how to prepare for a divorce if you think your marriage is headed in that direction.
Figure out your living situation
Once you begin divorce proceedings you will probably be left in limbo for a period of time before your divorce can actually be completed.
Most couples do not want to live in the same house while they are going through a divorce, so one spouse probably needs to move out. If you are struggling to make ends meet already, it will be hard to pay for two homes, so you may have to move in with family or friends for a while.
Living separately for a period of time is also a requirement for a no-fault divorce in many states.
For example, in Pennsylvania, a no-fault divorce is awarded when a couple says they have an “irretrievable breakdown” in their relationship. The couple must show that they have been living “separate and apart” for more than one year.
As a practical matter, if both parties want a divorce and they say they have been separated for a year than the judge is probably going to grant the divorce without further inquiry. Nonetheless, it is best to do everything you can to separate your life from your spouse while going through a divorce.
Collect the relevant information
A divorce usually cannot be granted without dividing up a couple’s property and arranging for the care of the couple’s children.
Do you know how much money you and your spouse jointly own? If you are like most people, you do not. You may not have a firm understanding of your spouse’s retirement savings, for example.
In most situations, you will be entitled to about half of whatever your spouse put away while you were married. When a divorce gets into court it can be costly to collect that type of information, so you should gather it discreetly before going to court if possible.
You should also have a deep understanding of what is going on with your children.
Does your child have any hobbies that are important to him or her? Does the child have a preference for a certain school? Does he or she maybe want to move to a new area?
A judge is usually going to be very careful to figure out what is in the best interest of the child in a divorce.
Usually, this is worked out by an agreement between the parents, but sometimes the judge will review the situation carefully and want to talk with children about their preferences.
Especially with older children, a judge may make custody orders that reflect the child’s preference.
Michigan is a good example of how this works.
When deciding the “best interest of the child,” the key question in custody determinations, a court must consider issues like the love, affection, and other emotional ties; capacity and disposition to provide the child with education and religious guidance; and the home, school, and community of record of the child.
The court must also consider “the reasonable preference of the child if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.”