5 Actionable Steps to Better Prepare for a Divorce
Whether to file for divorce is never an easy decision to make. However, if you find yourself in this situation, it is critically important to educate yourself about the divorce process before filing so that you can make the best decisions for your future. Here are five actionable steps you can take to better prepare yourself if divorce is on the horizon for you.
Educate Yourself on the Divorce Process
Education is key, and seeking out that education as early as possible will only help you make better decisions as you move forward. In South Carolina, the process typically begins with filing for divorce in your county’s family court. Once your attorney has filed the case, they will then be required to serve your spouse with the divorce papers or the Summons and Complaint documents, along with any notices of hearings that may be scheduled to take place in your case. Once your spouse has been served, they will have a certain amount of time to respond. Sometimes they will not officially respond until the day of your temporary hearing.
Regardless of when your spouse and his or her attorney responds to the Complaint, the filing of the case starts a clock running on various stages of the case to take place. If your case is not able to be settled by a negotiated settlement agreement within a certain time frame, your case will be scheduled for a final trial. At trial, a family court judge will decide on matters such as the grounds for the divorce, child custody, parenting time schedules, alimony, child support, and the division of all the marital assets and debts.
Gather and Organize Important Documents
Once you have decided to proceed with a divorce, the next step is to gather all the important documents you will need throughout the case before your spouse prevents access to those documents. This includes financial documents, such as tax returns and bank statements, as well as any documents related to your property, including deeds and titles. You will also need to have copies of any documents relating to your children, such as birth certificates, immunization records, and other school records.
It is important to have all these documents organized and accessible before you begin the divorce process. If you are not sure which documents you will need, you should consult with your attorney once you’ve hired one to see which documents are necessary for your state’s required family court documentation or might be good evidence for contested matters in your case. Most family law attorneys keep a list of documents they need for their client’s file handy and will share this information with you once you retain them to represent you.
Secure Your Finances & Save Money for Legal Fees
When you’re facing divorce, it’s more important than ever to be in control of your finances and to know everything you can about what you currently spend, as well as what you will need to spend once the process is started. The first step is to create or update a budget. Carefully track your income and expenses over several weeks (or months, if possible), so you know where every dollar is going, and you have a clear picture of expenses that may not be necessary once the divorce papers are served, and a separation has happened. Only when you have a clear picture of your financial situation can you start making informed changes to improve your bottom line. If necessary, consult with a financial advisor or supportive and financially savvy family members to get some trusted advice.
Next, you’ll need to set aside money for legal fees. This is the expense almost everyone hates to think about too much. Attorney fees can cost thousands of dollars, so it’s important to save up in advance, if possible. Many people choose to open a separate account for their legal fees so they can avoid using marital assets. You may also want to consider using a credit card or personal loan with a low-interest rate or ask your chosen attorney about litigation financing options that may be offered in your area. If none of these are options for your situation, many divorce clients find they must turn to family members to help with the legal fees upfront. Most of the better divorce attorneys will not work on payment plans and must be paid an initial retainer just to get the case started. If your case results in a settlement, it may be possible to borrow the money from family in the beginning and then pay them back at the end of your case once the marital assets are properly divided.
Hire an Experienced Family Law Attorney
One of the most important decisions you can make during your divorce is hiring an attorney. While it may be tempting to try to save money by using a general practitioner or your cousin’s best friend’s husband from two counties away who said he’d take the case on a flat fee basis, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney who specializes in family law. An experienced divorce attorney will know the ins and outs of the divorce process and will be able to navigate the often-complex, often very nuanced legal system with ease.
In addition, an attorney who specializes in family law in your county will be more familiar with the judges and other court personnel who will be handling your case, which means there will be little delay in getting your case filed appropriately, getting your hearings scheduled in a timely manner, and receiving all communications from the Court quickly and efficiently since your attorney will be familiar with any special rules that apply in only your county or within the family court system in your state. When it comes to something as important as your divorce, you cannot afford to take any chances. Be sure to hire an attorney who practices exclusively in family court.
Seek Out Emotional Support from a Therapist or Support Group
Being in the midst of a divorce can be an incredibly emotionally charged and difficult time. You may feel like you are grappling with intense feelings of sadness, anger, betrayal, and loneliness. Understandably, it can be easy to feel like you are struggling to cope. However, there are steps you can take to ease the burden and begin to move forward. One way to do this is to reach out for help from a therapist or a support group for people going through divorce. Talking about your experience with someone who understands what you are going through can be incredibly helpful. They can offer guidance and support as you navigate this challenging time. If you’re not familiar with these resources in your community, ask your attorney for some referrals. Most attorneys who practice exclusively in family court have a list of referral partners ready to give to their clients who need them. Additionally, talking with friends or family members who have been through a divorce can provide valuable insights and remind you that you are not alone in this process.
If you and your spouse are contemplating divorce, taking these steps above will start the process off on the right foot, even before you’ve hired your divorce attorney. If you’re in South Carolina, it’s important to contact an experienced family court attorney like J. Benjamin Stevens today to discuss your options. Even if you aren’t in South Carolina, Mr. Stevens is happy to offer referrals to a well-qualified attorney located in your state.
Ben Stevens has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over twenty-five years, handling all matters of family law, such as prenuptial agreements, divorce, separation, alimony, and child custody. Our firm is well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
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Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
ABOUT J. BENJAMIN STEVENS
Ben.Stevens@offitkurman.com | 864.598.9172
Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina. His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman, one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the United States, serves dynamic businesses, individuals and families. With 17 offices and nearly 250 lawyers who counsel clients across more than 30 areas of practice, Offit Kurman helps maximize and protect business value and personal wealth by providing innovative and entrepreneurial counsel that focuses on clients’ business objectives, interests and goals. The firm is distinguished by the quality, breadth and global reach of its legal services and a unique operational structure that encourages a culture of collaboration. For more information, visit www.offitkurman.com.
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