If you have decided to file for divorce, preparing in advance will help the process go as smoothly as possible. While everyone’s circumstances are different, there are some general steps that most people can (and generally should) take to prepare.
With the caveat that this is not legal advice and there is no substitute for speaking one-on-one with an experienced California divorce attorney, here is a checklist that you may find useful as you begin the process of preparing for your divorce:
1. Records to Collect
- Income and Taxes. In California, both spouses’ incomes are relevant to determining alimony and child support. Collect copies of your recent tax returns and W-2s or 1099s; and, if you have access to your spouse’s income statements, make copies of those as well.
- Account Information. Now is a good time to make sure you know how to log into all of your accounts. This includes online bank accounts, credit cards, investment and retirement accounts, college savings plans, mortgage and car loan payment portals, and any other accounts you use for personal or financial management purposes.
- Family Budget. Where does your money go each month? If you have a family budget, make a copy to give to your attorney. If you do not, your monthly checking account and credit card statements should provide a reasonably comprehensive picture of your family’s monthly spending.
- Property Records. Make copies of real estate deeds, vehicle titles, and any other property records. This applies for any property that you (or your spouse) acquired prior to or during your marriage.
- Prenuptial Agreement. If you and your spouse entered into a prenuptial agreement, your divorce attorney will need to review the agreement to determine (i) if it is enforceable, and (ii) if so, how it will impact your divorce.
2. Issues to Consider
- Property Division. In California, “community” property is subject to equitable division, while “separate” property is not. Most assets acquired during the marriage will qualify as community property. Which community assets are most important to you? To your spouse?
- Child Custody. If you have children, what are your goals with regard to custody and visitation? Do you have a plan in mind that would work for you (and your spouse) while serving your children’s best interests?
- Spousal Support. Will you (or your spouse) need to seek spousal support? If so, in what amount and for how long?
3. Information to Learn
- California Divorce Basics. Read: Glossary: Understanding the Terminology in Your California Divorce.
- Mistakes to Avoid. Read: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Getting Divorced in California.
- Health Care and Insurance. Read: Health Insurance & Other Considerations During a Divorce.
- Taxes and Divorce. Read: 7 Tax Issues that Need to Be Discussed During a California Divorce.
- Mediation. Read: Can Mediation Save Your Divorce?
4. Special Considerations
- For Military Officers. Divorcing military officers must address important issues related to their pensions and retirement benefits, Tricare, and other military-specific issues. Learn more.
- For Same-Sex Spouses. Gay and lesbian spouses will face some unique considerations during the divorce process. Learn more.
- For Business Owners. If you own a business, protecting your business will be a critical aspect of your divorce. Learn more.
Request a Confidential Initial Divorce Consultation in North County, San Diego
For more information about getting divorced in California and the steps you should be taking to prepare based upon your individual circumstances, please contact us to request a confidential initial consultation. You can reach our North County, San Diego law offices online or by phone at 619-299-7100.