Turning the Page
You tried everything. You scheduled a date night, carved out time for weekend get-aways, and even sought counseling. Nothing seemed to work — at least not in any meaningful way. For reasons you might never fully understand, you and the person you married have grown apart.
No one wants to let the D word seep into their thoughts, but for many people, divorce is the best way to move forward and be the happiest version of themselves. For couples whose marital strife could be negatively impacting their children, divorce can relieve their stress and minimize trauma. Upturning your life for what can often be an emotionally wrought process is a difficult decision, but, should you chose to turn that page, there are ways to prepare yourself that will at least make the proceedings move smoothly.
If you’re meeting a divorce attorney for the first time, it’s very likely that you fall into one of three categories: You’re unsure about the future of your marriage and want to gather information to see what options you might have; you’ve decided to pursue a divorce; or your spouse has filed for a divorce and you’re looking to protect your own interests. Whatever the circumstances, divorce attorneys need certain information to move forward.
Before your visit, compile three lists: one that includes basic biographical information, another detailing your finances, and a third telling the narrative of your marriage. Your attorney will need both you and your spouse’s full name, phone numbers, place and address of employment, date of birth, driver’s license number, social security number, the date of your wedding, and your children’s names, sex, and dates of birth.
For your finances, you’ll need to provide data on your assets and liabilities. Bring any and all financial statements you think might be relevant, particularly financial documents related to property. Try and compile an accurate list of your cash, checking accounts, savings accounts, IRAs, 401K, pension funds, houses and real estate, automobiles, and other possessions of significant value. Also, detail your debts, credit cards, mortgages, and so on. Be sure to bring your last two year’s tax returns, along with year-to-date pay stubs for you and your spouse. You’ll also need an accounting of your monthly living expenses.
Finally, gather your thoughts and attempt to piece together you and your spouse’s shared history. Try and come to terms with whether or not you need to prove your spouse was at fault. Was there infidelity? Abuse? Desertion? A “no-fault” divorce describes any divorce in which neither party has to prove the other did something wrong. All states allow no-fault divorces. For most states, courts recognize reasons such as “incompatibility” or “irreconcilable differences.”
Once you’ve gathered basic data, you and your attorney need to discuss your expectations of the process and how to proceed. Have your attorney walk you through all of the steps (they’ll vary depending on which of the three categories you fall under). Even when both spouses agree that they want to get divorced, one of them will have to file a petition with the court. If you are dependent on your spouse for financial support, be sure to discuss whether or not you need to ask the court for temporary orders for support and custody.
After pouring over the financial data you brought to your meeting, your attorney will be able to glean if you or your spouse is eligible for alimony. For example, if one half of the couple has sacrificed his/her career to take care of children, that spouse’s attorney may try and make a case that he/she should receive support to meet minimal reasonable monthly expenses. The rules regarding alimony are complicated and multi-faceted, and calculating alimony depends on your full financial disclosure. The spouses may agree to alimony or the court may order it. In Texas, a court order for alimony is called “spousal maintenance.”
It’s impossible to predict exactly what will happen over the course of divorce proceedings. But if you come prepared for meetings with your lawyer and follow her/his directions, you could save serious time and legal fees –– and gain the piece of mind from knowing you’re attorney has everything she/he needs to represent you.
Stephanie Sabelhaus and Sean M. Lynch are attorneys based in the Near Southside of Fort Worth. They specialize in family law, criminal defense, civil litigation, and tickets. Follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/LawOfficeOfSeanMLynch and on IG at @seanmlynchnearsouthside.
956 W. Rosedale St.
Fort Worth, TX 76104
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