What You Should Know About Divorce

Unfortunately, California seems to have one of the highest divorce rates of any state in the nation. California also probably has one of the most complicated set of laws on community property, child support, spousal support, and the characterization of property between separate property and community property. Given that we live in a climate that has a high divorce rate with a complicated set of laws, it would make sense for anyone who believes that their marital situation is headed in that direction, or at a minimum, that they are contemplating a separation, to clearly think through what their alternatives are, what their rights are, and how they can best prepare themselves if divorce is inevitable.

Most people spend some long period of time planning their marriage to the person that they have fallen in love with and want to marry. They find a place to be married. They plan a honeymoon. They send out invitations and plan a lovely party and reception after the ceremony. Most people, unfortunately, do not take the same time, care, and consideration in planning a divorce. This seems problematic as a divorce can bring a tremendous amount of risk, loss, and liability and should therefore not be entered into lightly, assuming that there is no child abuse, domestic violence or drugs. If child/spousal abuse or drugs are involved, run, do not walk, to the nearest courthouse to file for divorce and a restraining order. Protecting children is of utmost importance and if those situations listed above are present, a calm, cool considered approach to divorce is not going to be realistic as it will not protect the children.

Assuming that you find yourself in a marital situation that is calm, or somewhat calm and reasonable, there are certain steps that you can begin to take to prepare yourself so that your divorce process can go as smoothly as possible, given the circumstances. The degree of preparation is directly proportional to the quality of the outcome. I recommend to all clients, that they make sure that they have copies of all of their important financial documents in a safe accessible place. For example, make sure that you have copies of at least your last two years tax returns, that you have copies of approximately six months worth of credit card statements, mortgage statements, utility bills and copies of any other paperwork related to any other financial obligation that you pay on a regular monthly basis. Make sure that you have current paycheck stubs and that you are aware of your spouse's current income situation. You should make copies of all of these documents and replace the originals in the home so as not to deprive the other party of access to the same documents. It would also be a good idea to make sure that you have a copy of all of your insurance policies and medical insurance cards so that you can continue to receive medical treatment for yourself and the children throughout the proceeding. Copies of the deeds to any property that you own, the registrations to your car, boat or any other asset that is involved in the proceeding should be taken care of and documented in the same fashion as copies of your monthly obligations should be obtained. A copy of all of these documents should be placed in one easily accessible location outside of the marital residence or in a safe place that provides easily access to you.

I would suggest that you sit down prior to filing for divorce or seeking a lawyer to make a budget for yourself based on your income, your spouse's income is, and your monthly obligations. Any person involved in a divorce proceeding that has a clear, accurate and full picture of the financial situation of the parties is much better suited to proceed through the divorce proceeding to obtain a positive outcome. The old adage holds true in a divorce proceeding; knowledge is power.

If you do not have a bank account or a credit card in your name alone, you are well advised to obtain both of those financial instruments prior to filing for divorce. You should make sure that you have sufficient funds in a bank account so that you can provide for your own necessities of life for a minimum of approximately 45 to 60 days. With the court's tremendous backlog, it will take approximately 45 to 60 days to get into court to obtain an initial order for support. In the event that there are children involved, you need to be able to provide for their support until you can get a court order for temporary support. It is unfortunate that most people that seek counsel of a divorce attorney, when asked questions about their finances respond as if they are a deer caught in the headlights. With a few simple steps and planning, that is not necessary. Anything that you can do to reduce your own anxiety and alleviate your fears and concerns will make the divorce process easier and simpler.

Prior to contacting an attorney and seeing an attorney, I would suggest that you contemplate your goals in the divorce process. Do you simply want to share things amicably, split the community property and move on to a new life for yourself, or do you want to use this process to exact revenge? The later is probably not achievable and will not in all likelihood be the result that is obtainable in a courtroom. Having a clear set of goals in mind as to what you want to accomplish will help define the relationship that you will have with your lawyer. Last, I suggest that you contact multiple lawyers, and make initial consultations with several until you find a lawyer that you are comfortable and confident about. You should have a strong sense of connection with your lawyer. You should feel comfortable enough with your lawyer that you can disclose any and all necessary information to your lawyer. It stands to reason that if you do not feel comfortable with this person, you will not feel comfortable in disclosing all pertinent information. If you do not feel comfortable with the first lawyer that you interview, by all means, get a second opinion.

Just as planning is the key to any successful happy wedding, planning is the key to any successful divorce.