Divorce can be a very difficult process. You could be angry with your spouse, worried about how this will affect your children, resentful of past behaviors or actions, stressed about finances and concerned about starting a new life. With that litany of issues running through your mind, it would be easy to make unwise decisions about how the divorce will proceed. If you aren't focused, you could end up agreeing to an unfair divorce settlement or sacrificing your rights.
Having a basic plan in mind before filing for divorce could very well take some of the stress off your shoulders and make the whole ordeal easier for you.
Before you begin
Some people assume that the decision to file for divorce is instantaneous; that is simply not the case most of the time. Many people agonize over the decision, taking weeks or months to finally decide whether or not to proceed. Unless you or your children are in danger from domestic violence, taking your time is definitely a good thing. By carefully contemplating the ramifications of a divorce, you will be able to better plan for contingencies and increase your chances of a fair, timely resolution.
For example, taking the time to collate your family's financial data (mortgage and auto loan information, credit card accounts, loans, pay stubs, insurance policies, etc.) prior to filing will give you a better idea of the economic ramifications of a divorce, and it could greatly increase your chances of a fair financial disclosure and an equitable property settlement. Having this information gives you insight into how much it might cost to set up another household, what your average expenses might be, how much child support to seek, or if an alimony award might be appropriate.
In addition, investigating alternative resolution methods like mediation or a divorce settlement could lead you to proceed down a non-adversarial path to your divorce. Mediation is typically less expensive than traditional divorce litigation, is a private proceeding, and encourages you and your spouse to work together to find solutions.
Mediated or negotiated settlements are generally considered more workable, produce less animosity between the parties and put the former spouses in a good position to co-parent.
Once you have armed yourself with knowledge, you can make informed decisions about how best to proceed and about what things are really important to you in the divorce. Are you more concerned about having time with your children? Would you rather keep the family home in exchange for giving your spouse a larger share of the remaining marital assets? How involved will you be with your spouse if there are children involved? Can you see yourself successfully co-parenting?
There are no "cookie cutter" answers to these hard questions; they will be different for every couple. To find answers, and to protect your legal rights during this difficult time, work with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney.