So you've decided to end your marriage. Before you file divorce papers—or tell your spouse or anyone else—there are several important things to consider. Though divorce can be freeing for many people, it's also a huge, disruptive life change for everyone involved. Careful, thoughtful planning can make the painful or uncomfortable transitions go more smoothly.
Here are just a few of the things you should do or plan for before a New Jersey divorce.
Gather Important Documents
Financial documents serve as valuable evidence in divorce cases. If you're like most people, much of your financial documentation is stored in the home you share with your spouse. Gather and make copies of your records now so a potentially vengeful spouse can't destroy them or prevent you from accessing them once they've been served with divorce papers. Some of the documents you'll need when preparing for divorce include:
- Tax returns
- Bank account information and recent bank statements
- Pay stubs and other proof of income, such as Social Security income or disability benefits, and child support
- Stocks, bonds, IRAs, and other financial assets
- Pension plan and retirement account information
- Credit card statements, loan statements, and other documentation of the marital debt
- List of monthly expenses
- Mortgage papers
- Leases or deeds
- Vehicle loan documents
- Automobile titles
- Insurance paperwork for health, auto, homeowners, rental, dental, or life insurance policies
- Wills and estate plans
Consider Your Goals for Child Custody and Parenting Time
Child custody and parenting time are some of the most important and emotional issues in divorce cases involving children. Because New Jersey recognizes a child's right to have a loving, supportive relationship with both parents, the court strives for shared custody whenever possible.
Review your and your spouse's schedules and obligations, and your children's schedules, and come up with an equitable arrangement. Having clear and reasonable child custody goals not only has the potential to make that issue a little less contentious but also might make it easier for you to decide what your living arrangements will be during the divorce.
Figure Out Your Living Arrangements
If you're planning to be the one to initiate the divorce, you may be tempted to move out after you've told your spouse or had them served with papers in order to avoid additional conflict.
However, you aren't required to leave. Both spouses have the right to live in the marital home until the divorce is final, and there can be benefits to staying, especially if you're concerned about child custody. If you're the one who moves out while your spouse is there tending to the children's day-to-day needs, the court may not see a need to change that arrangement. An attorney can discuss your goals for child custody and recommend a living situation in line with them.
If you determine that it's in your best interest to move out, you'll want to collect important belongings and carefully plan how you'll financially contribute to two households.
Find an Experienced New Jersey Divorce Attorney
The divorce process is complicated and rife with potential pitfalls. If you're considering ending your marriage, you need a divorce and family law attorney who can help understand your legal rights and options, and advocate for your interests at every point—from initial consultation to finalization. Find an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and in whose abilities you're confident.
Schedule a Private Consultation with Our Family Law Attorneys
At Carl Taylor Law, our caring and accomplished Flemington, NJ divorce attorneys Carl Taylor and Lisa Stein-Browning have extensive experience helping clients achieve their divorce-related legal goals.
Do you have questions about what you need to do to prepare for a New Jersey divorce? Ready to start the process? Don't wait—take the first step toward your "happily even after" relationship parting and contact us today to request an appointment for a discrete initial consultation.