You have been thinking to yourself for some time, “It’s over,” but you don’t know where to begin. It’s easy to be overwhelmed and to keep putting it off when you’re facing the legal, financial, social, and overall emotional turmoil of beginning what may be a potentially volatile process of ending a marriage. The decision is even harder when there are children involved.
Even when you know in your heart that the decision to end the marriage is the right one, you will still feel sad, tired, lost, confused, and even intimidated to start the process. The best thing to do at a time like this is to gather your thoughts and create an action plan. It’s essential for you to be as prepared as possible and to understand your rights before proceeding.
California law relating to divorces is complex, and therefore, it’s important for you to be as prepared as possible and to understand your rights prior to proceeding so that you can make decisions that are best for you and your children. The timing of when to file your divorce may also have a significant impact on your case.
Understanding how to navigate the legal system is also important. Knowledge is power and can help you feel more confident in your decision to end your marriage.
The divorce process isn’t easy in most cases. You want to make sure you’re ready for divorce. We always encourage talking to a marriage counselor if there is hope for your situation.
California is a community property state, meaning that in general, all money earned, and all property acquired during the marriage are seen as belonging to both spouses equally. Similarly, all debts incurred during the marriage are joint debts.
Separate property, on the other hand, consists of all assets and liabilities each house had prior to the marriage or after the date of separation. Separate property also includes assets received as a gift or inheritance from a third party. It is crucial to assess what is potentially community and what is potentially separate property so that you can plan for your future.
Gathering important financial documents can make the process more efficient when you are ready to proceed and can help you understand what assets and debts are at issue. It is imperative that you have an accurate picture of your assets, liabilities, and overall financial health, especially if your spouse was the one responsible for managing marital finances.
Look at past tax returns, bank statements, investment account statements, retirement account statements, employee benefits handbooks, life insurance policies, mortgage documents, credit card statements, family trusts, and stock grants, just to name a few.
If your spouse owns his/her own business, you want to be able to assess as much information as possible relating to the finances of his/her business.
If you are the stay at home parent or the spouse with limited access to financial resources, make sure that you have a way to pay for your expenses for at least the next three months. It’s a good idea to apply for your credit card too if you do not already have one.
Many spouses become spiteful when a divorce starts and may cut off the other spouse’s access to community funds and credit cards. Although your attorney can help you obtain spousal and child support, it will take some time to do so. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the resources to cover your living expenses for emergencies and to pay for an attorney if you decide to retain one.
You don’t want to jump the gun on this one. You want to make sure that you are prepared before you tell your spouse. Once you are ready, you want to make sure that you do it in a private setting and not in front of the children.
Be honest and open but respectful as to why you want the divorce. Make sure your spouse knows that you have thought it through carefully and that your decision is final. You also want to give your spouse time to process what you have just told him/her.
Once your spouse has had a chance to process the fact that you want a divorce, you both will need to discuss and see if you can reach an agreement regarding child custody and temporary living arrangements. You will also need to figure out how to tell the children.
Telling the children is probably the hardest part of the entire process.
Ideally, you and your spouse can agree on how and when to break the news to the children. It’s important to emphasize that this is not their fault and that both parents will continue to love and be there for them. It may also be beneficial to arrange for them to see a child therapist who has experience working with children with divorced parents.
At Modern Family Law, we can help you answer the all-important question of “Where do I start?” With our extensive background in family law and the ability to apply it to your specific situation, we will help you put together an action plan so that you can move forward.
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