I am Thinking of Getting a Divorce. Where Should I Start?
You should begin by surrounding yourself with the professionals who can guide you through the divorce process. At a minimum, you will need a family law attorney practicing in your area, and a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™). Most divorce lawyers and CDFAs™ will offer a reduced or flat rate for an initial consultation to better understand your situation and begin to recommend the next steps.
Most states, such as Pennsylvania and Florida, have no-fault divorce laws. If you live in a no-fault divorce state, you do not have to prove that your spouse is insane, impotent/infertile, unfaithful, abusive, or unfit. That means you can focus on negotiating your divorce settlement. Your divorce attorney will be able to advise you as to whether you live in a fault or no-fault divorce state.
Regardless of where you live, before meeting with your family law attorney or CFP® and CDFA™, it is highly recommended that you gather information regarding your income, expenses, and your assets and liabilities. You will need to bring to the initial meeting copies of tax returns from your last three years and documents concerning any debts and significant purchases you have made. This might include your car, your home, and other real estate properties you may own. Also, you will want to bring your bank statements, vehicle ownership and leasing documents. Regarding your home or real estate property, bring information that will state the purchase price, when it was bought, who paid for the down payment and paperwork related to the mortgage.
It would be wise to detail your income and expenses for the divorce lawyer and the CFP® / CDFA™. You should include any income that you earn from working, interest or dividend income, and income from any other sources. This might include unemployment insurance benefits, Social Security, pension, and spousal or child support paid to you from a prior relationship.
Your expenses should include items such as your housing expense, utilities, entertainment expenses, auto expenses, insurance expenses, medical expenses that are not reimbursed by your insurance carrier, and your childcare expenses.