Before you have that "last straw" argument, grab the kids and storm out of the house to your mother's, you'd better think twice. Obtaining a divorce is a very serious matter that can permanently affect your children, your financial well-being, and even your sanity. The following is a list of five important things that you should consider in anticipation of a marital separation or divorce.
1. Make an inventory of your marital assets and liabilities. It is surprising how many people are not aware of what they have, what it is worth, and what they owe. Also, keep in mind that most things that you accumulate during the marriage are considered marital property under law regardless of title. You should compile tax returns, pay stubs, pension, investment and credit card statements; and make a room by room list of house contents.
2. Consider living arrangements during the divorce. Some people can co-exist without daily arguments during the divorce process. Other people are forced to remain living together for economic reasons. You should always consider if living in the same house while obtaining a divorce is for you because it can be very stressful and even lead to domestic violence.
If you are the economically dependant spouse, you may think that you cannot afford to move out, but you will most likely be entitled to spousal support or alimony pending the divorce litigation, so you may be able to afford it after all.
3. Leave your children out of it. While your reasons for wanting a divorce may be valid, children are best left out of the adult issues that most divorces involve. The children are emotionally torn between both parents, whom they often love equally.
Also, children who sense that they can gain advantages by pitting parents against each other will only use your mutual animosity to their perceived advantage while you try to out-do each other to "win" their affection with lavish gifts.
Parents should always try to get along in front of the children and should never say anything disparaging about the other parent in front of the children, or contradict the other parent's decisions or discipline.
4. Keep your wits. Divorce is inherently emotional as it always involves shattered dreams and lost hopes. The worst thing that you can do is anything drastic that you will later regret and may later adversely affect you in court, such as emptying out the bank accounts or the house, "stealing" the children and hiding them, or engaging in violence against your spouse or children.
It is a good idea to try to resolve your marital problems with counseling.
If that fails, you should try to remain calm and assess your situation, planning your next move carefully and not allow yourself to be swept away by emotions such as anger or revenge. Many cases are irreparably damaged by rash actions early in the separation.
5. Know your legal rights and obligations. It is amazing how much knowing the legal process (how courts decide such issues as child and spousal support, child custody and property division) can help put your case in perspective and help you make the right decisions. Good legal counsel can help make your case settle quickly, inexpensively, and amicably.
If no agreement can be reached, you will have a good idea of your entitlements and obligations so that you are not "ambushed" in court. Avoid the temptation to make your own agreements or seek the advice of non-lawyers who may claim to counsel both of you as there is an inherent conflict of interest in such arrangements.
Never go to court without an attorney. Only when you know the law, which has developed over the centuries for your benefit, can you make informed decisions that will affect your life forever. Always consult with an attorney who specializes in divorce before you do anything that you may later regret.