Before You Call a Michigan Divorce Lawyer…
People usually take a year to plan a wedding when they have limited assets and no kids. And then after a big fight over the weekend, people call us on Monday morning and plan to file for divorce. By now, they have substantial assets to divide, custody to decide and are concerned where they will live or what their future will look like.
For a wedding, you hire a wedding planner, but what do you do when you want or need a divorce? No one advertises their services as a divorce planner. However, as divorce attorneys, we find that some planning is very beneficial to the process and to our clients’ financial and emotional wellbeing.
How to Plan for the Divorce
Marriage is a big deal. Historically, couples promised to stay together ‘til death’ parted them. Although divorce is much more common, the impact on your and your children’s lives will likely be significant. There are a myriad of things you can do to lessen the impact, but here are the five top things you can do prior to filing.
1. Talk to a Marriage Counselor.
We encourage reconciliation before, during or even after the divorce. Often it may seem that reconciliation is not possible, but with the help of a qualified counselor, you may get somewhere. And, the financial and emotional damage will increase if you file for divorce and start the litigation proceedings and then reconcile.
Even if there is no hope for your marriage, even if your spouse refuses to go with you, one or more visits to a counselor will be helpful. When you proceed with the divorce, you will benefit from learning what went wrong, how you can prevent this in the future, and how you should navigate the unchartered territory of divorce alone or with your children.
Family lawyers can and will put the divorce proceeding on hold when you want to explore reconciliation, but why not explore that option before filing?
2. Talk to a Divorce Attorney.
There is no reason why you should ignore this free resource. Most divorce attorneys provide you with a free consultation. Why disrupt half your assets, your children’s lives and not first have a conversation what to expect? And while you are at it, what should you expect to discuss during this free consultation?
3. Prepare for the Unknown.
Will you have to pay alimony or child support? For how long will you have to pay and how soon will you have to pay? An experienced divorce attorney can give you an estimate of the likelihood of these obligations. Each case is unique because each client’s situation is unique. One client lives in a home gifted by his or her parents; will their spouse receive one half? Another client lives with a spouse who has battled addiction issues; will he or she receive regular parenting time? To first file for divorce without the necessary safeguarding of your assets and your children’s future is a difficult and harmful way to navigate this chapter of your life. Even if your attorney delivers bad news, you will do better when you are prepared for a bad ruling.
4. Do Not Move out of the House Without Talking to an Attorney.
It is difficult or impossible to argue to a judge that you want 50/50 custody if you moved out of the family home, into a different school district and have not daily cared for your children for some time. If you want to consider ownership of the home after the divorce, your argument to have the house awarded to you will seem illogical to the judge when you have abandoned that home.
Most importantly, you will lose access to relevant and often important financial records and documents that support your requests for assets and custody or parenting time of the children.
Of course, if there is domestic violence and one has no choice, then not moving out is not an option.
If life at home is unbearable and you need to move out, schedule a time to meet with our experienced divorce attorneys before you take that next step of moving out so that we can protect your rights and options.
5. Take Steps to Safeguard Your Assets.
Are you able to sign in and access the bank accounts and investment accounts? After your consultation with your attorney, print the necessary account statements and put them in a safe location, outside of the home. Your spouse may eliminate your access to those accounts when you discuss the option of divorce. Do you know what is in the safe? Do you know what is all included in valuable collections, such as gemstones, coins, etc.? Do you know the size of the diamond that is part of the jewelry collection? Now is the time to take photos of the items. Now is the time to get appraisals of the items. Before you discuss the option of a divorce. Before your spouse starts liquidating those assets or moving the money It may be difficult and expensive to follow the money trail after the divorce is started.
Remember That Each Divorce is Unique
This list will provide some helpful steps to safeguard your assets and get you started on the right track. But again, each person is unique, and each divorce case is unique, and we can never give a complete list, nor will this list apply to every situation. If you would like more information about the option of divorce, give us a call at 616-285-0808 and we can discuss a more tailormade approach to your unique situation before the Michigan divorce filing.