A recent article discussed seven mistakes to avoid when considering a divorce. The first mistake we discussed was ignoring the importance of preparation. When contemplating a divorce, preparation is extremely important, as overlooking issues at the beginning of the process can lead to an undesirable outcome in the end.
To help spouses begin their preparations, we have prepared a checklist with 25 key steps that are broken down into five main categories:
Category #1: Financial Matters (Alimony and Child Support)
- Documentation of Income – Make copies of your most recent paystub and prior paystubs if your income has recently changed. If you have access to your spouse’s paystubs, make copies of these.
- Tax Documents – Make copies of your most recent W-2s or 1099s (and your spouse’s, if possible). Also, make a copy of your most recent tax return.
- Bank and Credit Card Account Statements – Print out or make copies of your most recent savings, checking, and credit card account statements.
- Retirement and Investment Account Statements – Print out or make copies of your most recent retirement and investment account statements.
- Family Budget – If you keep a family budget, it will be helpful to share a copy of this with your divorce attorney. If you don’t, your attorney can use your checking and credit card statements to assess your monthly spending and child-related expenses.
Category #2: Property-Related Matters
- Deeds, Titles, and Other Property Records – Make copies of the deed to your home, the title to each of your vehicles, and any other property records you may have.
- Mortgages, Car Loans, and Other Secured Debts – Make copies of your mortgage, car loans, and other secured debts you and your spouse currently have, whether jointly or separately.
- Inventory of Property – Create a list of the property that you own. This includes both real estate and personal property. It is important to be as thorough and detailed as possible.
- Identify Possible “Separate” Assets – In Arizona, the default rule is that any assets a spouse brings with them into their marriage are “separate” assets that the spouse is entitled to keep in the event of a divorce. On your property inventory, identify any possible “separate” assets belonging to you or your spouse.
- Prioritize Your Marital Assets – For all assets that may be subject to equitable distribution in your divorce, think about which ones matter most to you and which are likely to matter most to your spouse.
Category #3: Child-Related Matters
- Arizona’s “Best Interests” Factors – When going through a divorce, parents must develop a parenting plan that reflects their children’s best interests. With this in mind, it is a good idea to begin familiarizing yourself with Arizona’s “best interests” factors.
- Post-Divorce Practicalities – While the children’s best interests matter most, the practicalities of the parents’ schedules play into this equation. So, think about what will be feasible for you in terms of scheduling after your divorce.
- Consider Your Children’s Needs – Going through a divorce can be challenging for children of any age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has published a resource entitled, Helping Children and Families Deal With Divorce and Separation, which addresses some key considerations and is worth a read.
- Consider Flexible Alternatives – These days, parents have many options when developing a parenting plan that meets their needs and reflects their children’s best interests. Divorcing parents should consider all available options to make an informed decision.
- Estimate Child Support – Both parents are obligated to financially support their children after their divorce. The Arizona Judicial Branch has published a Child Support Calculator that you can use to estimate your (or your spouse’s) child support payments. However, you should not rely on this calculator exclusively.
Category #4: What to Expect from the Divorce Process
- Arizona’s Divorce Laws – Read our overview of Arizona’s divorce laws.
- Commonly Overlooked Issues – Learn about 10 issues that spouses commonly overlook during a divorce.
- Making Informed Decisions – Learn how your divorce lawyer will help you make informed decisions before and during the divorce process.
- Setting Reasonable Expectations – Learn how to set reasonable expectations for your Arizona divorce.
- Divorce Mediation – Read about how divorcing spouses can use mediation to overcome disagreements without going to court.
Category #5: Looking Ahead to Your Divorce (and Your Post-Divorce Life)
- Adopt a Long-Term Mindset – While it is easy to get bogged down in the details and focus on getting through your divorce as quickly as possible, it is important to adopt a long-term mindset. The decisions you make during your divorce will impact your life (and your children’s lives) for years to come.
- Assess Your Post–Divorce Financial Needs – Your post-divorce budget could look very different from your family budget during the marriage. Assess your post-divorce financial needs to make informed decisions about property division, alimony, and child support.
- Prioritize Thoroughness Over Efficiency – Preparing for divorce takes time, and preparations can often be tedious. But, as you prepare, staying focused on being as thorough as possible is important.
- Consider Changes That May Be On the Horizon – How soon will your children turn 18? Will they be heading to college? Could you potentially be looking at a career change? If any major changes are on the horizon, you will want to factor them into your divorce preparations.
- Prepare a List of Questions – Finally, prepare a list of questions for your divorce attorney. There are no bad questions, and you should feel free to ask any questions you may have.
This checklist is not intended as legal advice, and using a checklist is not a substitute for seeking personalized legal representation. If you are considering a divorce, we encourage you to schedule a complimentary initial consultation at Weingart Family Law.
Schedule a Complimentary Initial Consultation in Phoenix, AZ
Contact us today for more information about how to prepare for your divorce (and what to expect before, during, and after the divorce process). Call 480-530-5551 or send us a confidential message online to speak with an experienced Phoenix divorce lawyer as soon as possible.