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Steps to take before filing for divorce

Every year, divorce filings spike right after the holidays. In fact, January is referred to as "Divorce Month" by many people in the family law field.

This isn't because couples decide to call it quits after having a horrible time together over the holidays -- although that might be true in some cases. Typically, what happens is that one or both spouses will decide to put off the divorce until after the holidays for the sake of the kids or other family members.

If you are one of the many people who are planning on filing for divorce sometime this winter, then you might be thinking that there is not much you need to do until then. However, there are actually several steps that you should be take now in order to prepare, even if you are not yet ready to make the divorce official.

Taking the following steps ahead of time can help make sure that your rights and interests are protected:

Gather legal and financial documents.

Gather and make copies of all important legal and financial documents as soon as possible, as this can be more difficult to do after the divorce has been filed and your spouse is less willing to cooperate. Important documents include:

  • Federal and state income tax returns
  • Payroll statements
  • Bank statements
  • Retirement plan documents
  • Real estate deeds
  • Mortgage information
  • Household billing statements
  • Birth certificates
  • Immigration documents
  • Social Security cards
  • Prenuptial agreements

Get a copy of your credit report.

You will want to make sure that your credit report is accurate as soon as possible, and doing so can also help you to make sure that your spouse isn't racking up shared debt that you aren't aware of.

Because your credit score will be so important after your divorce is finalized, you may want to consider opening your own credit accounts in order to start building your individual credit score.

Find a divorce lawyer who best suits your needs.

All divorce lawyers have different styles and personalities, so it's important to find an attorney who you work well with from the beginning. There is nothing worse than having to switch attorneys half-way through the divorce process. Once you find the right lawyer, he or she can also provide you with additional steps to take before officially filing for divorce.

Start preparing mentally for the changes to come.

As we discussed in this article, the decisions that you make during the divorce process will impact your life for many years to come. Understanding the process and what to expect before filing for divorce can help put your mind at ease.

Last but not least, it's important to be prepared mentally so that your emotions do not guide your decision making.

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