I want a divorce. Now what do I do?

A divorce is like a death.  Every spouse grieves the death of the marriage in his or her own way.  Deciding to divorce is difficult in many important ways.  It may be that a spouse has cheated.  It may be that the couple can no longer communicate and one of the spouses feels he or she needs to move on.  No one ever decides to divorce without giving it a lot of thought even though the other spouse feels that may not be true.

What does a person who wants a divorce do?  There are several initial steps:

1.         Talk with an attorney.  It is wise to schedule a consultation with a skilled family law attorney to gather information about your legal options.  Meeting with an attorney for a consultation does not mean you have to hire that attorney.  You should meet with the attorney to discuss the facts of your situation, what Minnesota law says about your situation and the pros and cons of a divorce.  Meeting with that attorney is a way for you to get valuable information about this life changing event.

2.         Find information.  Your attorney and the court need a lot of financial information about a couple’s financial life.  This includes past tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, retirement accounts, pension statements and loan statements.  If a spouse does not have access to the information, now would be the time to start looking for the information and making copies of this financial information in case the other spouse tries to hide or destroy it.  It happens more frequently than people think.

3.         Get money and credit.  Consider opening a bank account and credit card in your name.  When a spouse hears the word “divorce”, that spouse may start withdrawing all or most of the money in joint bank accounts or start charging up credit cards.  That spouse then may stop giving the other spouse any money or access to credit cards.  Thinking ahead by putting money or having paychecks directly deposited into that the individual bank account can help keep the person considering divorce financially afloat.

4.         Think ahead.  The decisions people make during a divorce are life changing.  Finding a financial advisor to help financially plan ahead for retirement, buying a home after a divorce or living on a single income is beneficial.  Divorce takes an emotional and spiritual toll.  Working with a therapist may be beneficial as you deal in a healthy way with the grief and loss of a marriage.

Jessica Sterle