You or your spouse might be ready to part ways, but how do you get ready for a divorce? Well, many divorces boil down to two matters—finances and child custody. If you want to litigate or settle these matters in a favorable way, you need to understand your needs, gather paperwork, and know your legal obligations for filing. There are many issues to consider, and we can teach you how to prepare for a divorce in California. At Pakpour Banks LLP, our award-winning Davis divorce lawyers are passionate about helping you navigate this major life-changing event.
What to Do Before You File for Divorce
Divorces and the underlying needs of each party vary from family to family. But as unique as each case is, there are many similarities between cases as well. The following are general tips for preparing for your divorce that can make the process less stressful.
Understand Your Financial Obligations and Resources
In every divorce, the court must determine how to divide the marital property. In general, the community or marital property is whatever income, property, or debt either spouse acquired during the marriage (with some exceptions). So, one of your first orders of business is to review your finances. This review could include collecting and going over:
- Tax returns,
- Bank statements,
- Loan documents,
- W-2 forms,
- Mortgage documents,
- Business records,
- Wage records,
- Property appraisals,
- Investment statements,
- 1099 forms, and
- Any other information regarding your income and your liabilities.
And once you have reviewed these documents, keep them available and organized. You will likely have to submit all of the above information to the court so that the judge can properly divide your estate.
Understand Your Financial Needs
The court will divide your debts and assets fairly unless you and your spouse come to an alternate agreement about how you would like to distribute them. Depending on your financial circumstances, you may need a larger share of the community assets or a smaller burden to shoulder when it comes to community debts. So, if you and your spouse are able to amicably agree on property distribution, you could create a marital settlement agreement that specifies the desired distribution.
To effectively negotiate an agreement like this, you must understand your needs. These needs could include:
- Medical costs,
- Professional needs,
- Education expenses,
- Housing needs, and
- Transportation costs.
If you don’t have an amicable relationship with your spouse, but the above are still pressing matters, a skilled divorce attorney can help negotiate with your spouse to find an agreeable resolution. The judge will still have to sign off on the agreement, but as long as it is fair and does not violate public policy, they are likely to go along with the agreement you present. If you cannot come to an agreement, the judge will have to make these decisions for you after a trial.
Divorce courts also determine whether parties are entitled to temporary or long-term spousal support. Your entitlement to support depends on the length of your marriage, your financial needs, and the income disparity between you and your spouse. In light of your options regarding spousal support and a customized distribution of your estate, collecting financial documents and information can be crucial to your case.
Review Your Child’s Needs
If you and your spouse share one or more children, the court needs to make a determination about child custody and child support. Before you walk into court, you should make sure that you have a strong grasp on what your child needs.
When establishing who will make decisions for your child and where they will live, the court looks at what’s in the child’s best interests. Among other things, the court considers the following when determining your child’s best interests:
- The connection your child has to their home, school, and community;
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child;
- The health and age of your child;
- Any substance abuse issues of either parent;
- The emotional tie your child has with each parent; and
- Any history of domestic violence.
Before you file for divorce, you’ll want to go over these factors so you are ready to argue your position in court, in settlement negotiations, or in mediation.
Proving what is in your child’s best interests may require that you collect documents and evidence such as:
- Your child’s medical records,
- Your child’s education records,
- Documents regarding extracurricular activities,
- Police reports,
- Child protection reports,
- Witness testimony, and
- Invoices or receipts.
Once you understand what’s in your child’s best interests, you should go over what your needs are as a parent. Will you need the court to enforce a specific parenting schedule so you can hold down a job? Do caretakers in your child’s life need extra supervision or limited access to your child? Do you or your spouse need to relocate with the child for personal or professional reasons? These are questions you want to answer before stepping into a courtroom.
When the court calculates child support obligations, it considers the amount of parenting time awarded to each parent and each parent’s financial resources. The same documents you collect and review to determine how to split marital property will likely be necessary for determining what to expect for a child support order.
Figure Out Where You Should File
California is a big state, and you can’t file for divorce just anywhere. You must establish that the court where you are filing has jurisdiction over your case. To file for divorce in California, you or your spouse has to have lived in the state for at least six months, and you can file only in the county where one of you has lived for at least three months. We can help you select the best and most appropriate jurisdiction for your case.
Speak to One of Our Attorneys Today
Before filing for divorce, tips and advice from an experienced attorney can be crucial to a good outcome. At Pakpour Banks LLP, we are award-winning attorneys with over a decade of experience, and we fight vigorously for the family rights of California residents. Let us protect you and support you in your family law case. You can contact us online or call us to schedule an appointment.