1. Have We Done Everything Possible to Save our Marriage?
Have we gone to counseling, have we actually talked to each other about our issues, have we tried to rekindle our lost romance? Have we tried to hit the reset button? Have we explored every option to no avail.
2. Is This Really What I Want or am I Just Acting in the Heat of the Moment?
Did you get into a big fight, a massive blowout of nuclear proportions? Were your feelings hurt so completely and utterly as to think that you cannot possibly spend one more day looking at this person? Have you given yourself some time away from the situation to really think about what your life would be like without this person? Was it one fight or does this happen on a regular basis?
3. How Will this Affect the Kids and How Will I Handle it?
Your kids are going to be affected whether you stay in a bad marriage or get out of one. It’s how you handle it that’s most important. KEEP THEM OUT OF IT. PERIOD. This isn’t about them, they will become collateral damage if you don’t work together to ensure their lives stay as close to normal as possible.
4. Are My Finances in Order?
Do you know where all of your accounts are? Do you have access to them? Do you know all of the balances whether an asset or a debt? Run a quick credit check. In most states you get one free per year. There is no hiding accounts that have been opened by either spouse and it will also show the most recent balance that was reported. If there are accounts you don’t recognize take note of those, you may need to call them out at a later time.
5. Do I Have a Support System In Place?
This will be one of the most difficult times in your life. Think of it as a death because that is exactly what it is. Just as you need friends and family at that time you will also need them here. You need that emotional support system now more than ever. But be careful not to abuse your privileges, your divorce may drag out for a year or more, that is a lot of hand holding. You may need to seek out a divorce coach or professional counselor for some extra support.
6. Are You Working Right Now, If Not Is Your Résumé Updated?
It is very important to start networking right now if you are not working. Get your résumé up to date. Start posting it on job sites such as Indeed or Monster. Get yourself on Linkedin and let your friends on Facebook know you are looking if possible. Depending on many factors, including the age of your kids, you may be required to go back to work or be imputed income equivalent to your earning power until you do.
7. How Will The Property Be Divided – Can I Stay In My House?
You may want to begin the process of inventorying your assets and making note of how you would like to see them divided. Think about whether or not you would like to have the house sold or try to retain it. If you would like to retain it make sure you can afford it; not just the monthly payments but all of the upkeep, insurance and taxes, and are able to refinance it on your own.
8. Can I Afford To Do This Right Now?
If it’s the right thing to do there is always a way. You may need to plan on putting money aside each week in order to save enough money to retain an attorney. If you are working then put money aside from each paycheck. If you are not then get creative about saving the necessary money without letting on to the other party. It can be as easy as getting cash back every time you go to the grocery store, it’s added to the grocery bill. Call around and find out what a typical retainer is, which will vary, shoot for somewhere in the middle. Do not base your attorney decision on the lowest retainer however. After you have retained an attorney most will work with you on payments knowing that you can always request attorney fees from the other party if necessary.
9. How Will I Find an Attorney?
I highly recommend that you get referrals from friends and/or family, but it’s ok to research attorneys via the internet or your states bar website. I would also recommend that you meet with 2 or 3 different attorneys. You may be working with this person for quite some time and paying them quite a bit of money. This is your future and you want to make sure that you are comfortable with the person you are letting negotiate it for you. You need to get a good feeling about this person, know that they will work for you and not just hand your case off to their associate and only show up to court.
10. Is It Worth It?
Only you can answer that – but you’d better be damn sure because while some people think that this is the easy way out, it is the exact opposite. This may be one of the most difficult and emotionally draining things you will ever do, the effects of which will last for years after. You need to be 100% sure and 100% prepared for the storm you are about to weather, you may need a bigger boat.