If you believe that your marriage may be heading towards a divorce, or if it is imminent, there are some several things you should consider doing (or not doing) to help prepare for the process:
1. Copy or access documents. Tax returns, bank statements, investment/retirement statements will all be disclosed to each side during the discovery process, but if you have those documents at the start of a divorce it can offer the advantage of helping determine strategy and offers a starting point for conducting discovery.
2. Plan for the short term financial future. Your spouse may earn a large income and you may have joint accounts with sufficient assets to pay your bills for the immediate future, but that is not enough. It can take several weeks or months to get an initial order of support from a court. Additionally, your spouse may withdraw all assets from any of your joint accounts leaving you with no access to your money. Therefore, if your income is not sufficient to pay your (and your children's) regular living expenses then it is often a good idea to have assets under your sole control sufficient to pay your living expenses for up to six months. This may require you to move money from a joint account to your individual account.
3. Know your income, assets and household expenses. In addition to obtaining tax returns and documents relating to your assets, if possible, create a list of your monthly expenses using credit card and bank statements along with your monthly bills. Every party to a divorce in Illinois is required to complete a financial disclosure affidavit with your income, assets and household expenses before asking the Court for support or other financial relief. The sooner you begin gathering that information the quicker that process will go when the case begins.
4. Consider canceling joint credit card accounts. If you have access to sufficient assets and income to pay your expenses during the initial phase of your divorce, consider canceling joint credit card accounts to limit the amount of debt your spouse can incur that you might be responsible for.
5. DO NOT separate from your children. Except in situations where your physical or emotional well-being is at risk, do not agree to a separation where you live apart from your children if there is any chance there will be a disagreement as to parenting time or living arrangements involving your children. If your children reside primarily with your spouse he or she will have an advantage one that issue.
6. DO NOT move out of a marital residence you want to keep. Do not move out of the marital residence if you want to be awarded the residence as part of the divorce.
7. DO NOT involve your children in your divorce. If you have children, one of your primary concerns should be shielding them from the adverse affects of the divorce. No good can come from your children observing arguments between their parents or by one parent talking negatively about the other parent to their children. Additionally, involving your children in your divorce in any way can hurt that person's chances if custody of the children is an issue in the case.
8. Try to separate the emotions from the legal aspects of the divorce. In Illinois, the Court does not consider which party is at fault in the marriage in determining child support, maintenance (formerly called alimony), property division or other issues. Even though divorce is obviously a very emotional situation, each side should strive to not let emotions or blame impact the handling of the legal aspects of the divorce. In almost every divorce, both sides will be better off in every way if the legal aspects of the divorce are handled fairly and amicably.
9. Establish a support network if you don't have one already. Divorces, even amicable divorces, is an emotionally difficult time in your life. It is important to have a one or more people that you can trust to support you emotionally during this time. A professional therapist can often be extraordinarily helpful during these times. You may have a fantastic divorce attorney, but she or he is at best an amateur therapist not trained to help you with the emotional impact of a divorce.
10. Consult with and hire an attorney who practices family law. Consulting with a family law attorney can be extraordinarily valuable even if you have not yet made the decision to divorce and it is merely a possibility so that you may learn more information about the possible results of all aspects of a divorce. If you are definitely going to get divorced or have been served with paperwork from your spouse's attorney, it is extremely important you get advice from your an independent attorney. Many attorneys offer initial consultations free of charge.
These are general considerations for people who may get divorced. Every situation is different and it is important to obtain advice specific to your situation from a knowledgeable family law attorney. For more information about your specific situation you can contact me by email or phone at (312) 803-0388.