First Steps in Filing For Divorce

Kathey Batey Divorce Support Anonymous

You know the marriage is over. The last straw, the last sin, the last chance. After exhausting every effort at marriage counseling and reconciliation it is time to face the truth that a divorce is necessary. Divorce is difficult and if there is a way to save the marriage I would put resources there first. If you have determined there is no saving the marriage, then let’s begin the difficult task of getting you through it with the least amount of damage.

Next steps, or the first steps in divorce is listed below.*

1)      Is it possible for you two to work together to dissolve this marriage? How well are you able to communicate? (This can be difficult to know because people change in divorce). There are many things you can do to minimize the trauma and the cost. Following these initial steps listed here can save you a lot of money, time and heartache. The better able parties are in cooperating with each other, the smoother this process can go.

2)      Filing- One of you have to file for the divorce. Filing for divorce is done at the County Clerks Office at your County Court House. There is a fee for it and the fee may vary from county to county. But you can         safely plan on $150 in the state of Michigan. Other fees may apply to serve the papers, etc. This date is important. It is from this date the courts determine marital assets and debts. Prior to this date all assets are marital and it is difficult to make claim to them.

3)      List (or spreadsheet) all of your assets and debts. Get the value on house, cars, boats, anything of higher value. When was your house last appraised? With the market fluctuations, you may need an appraisal. Your retirement funds are assets that will be discussed and divided. Know yours and your spouse’s value and who manages them. Martial property is any and all property acquired during the marriage. If you had an inheritance you commingled with funds of the marriage they may have become martial assets.

4)      Make a list of priorities of the items that are the most important to you. Look honestly at keeping the house. Will you be house poor if you stay there or can you comfortably afford the home? The house is typically the most emotional asset to determine what to do with. It represents stability to the children and perhaps to you.

5)      You will need to disclose any and all finances. Do you think he/she will do this or is he/she hiding funds? (It happens). If either of you hide assets it can void out any Mediation Agreement or possibly the Divorce Judgment (final results of the divorce). You don’t need more court time, it’s too expensive.

6)     You have options. There are less expensive ways to move through divorce than a lawyer and the courts. The average divorce costs $10,000-$15,000. The average mediation can be a mere fraction of that cost. If the parties are willing to work together to separate the assets and debts. There is also Collaborative Divorce, which uses lawyers, counselors and financial experts to work through the divorce. This could be a mid-range cost to the parties depending on the length of time you are together.

7)      You need support. Divorce Support Anonymous groups are available to you either locally or on line. It is a 10-week support class where we will work through the Four Stages Of Divorce. There are videos and workbooks for you to use. It will help you tremendously. The cost will vary dependent upon the location. There is also the Suddenly Single book series will guide you through and after your divorce.

8)      Because you have minor children there is a 6-month waiting period before the divorce can be final. Without minor children the timeline will be 60 days.

9)      Separate your finances as soon as possible. This may mean closing accounts, changing credit card companies to get one in your own name.

10)    Mediation is an excellent option to work through your divorce. I am a mediator, I can be your divorce coach or mediator, but I cannot do both due to neutrality as a mediator. I can offer other mediators or mediation centers that will assist you.

11)    Get your network of experts in legal, financial, spiritual and emotional. If you don’t know where to begin, ask friends, family and colleagues whom you trust. Interview the potential experts to see if they work for you. Yes, it is a lot of work, but work now will resolve issues that won’t haunt you or be carried into your future.

12)    Secure a lawyer if you feel your divorce has multiple complexities to be resolved. Or secure a lawyer to review an Agreement you have reached with your spouse prior to signing it.

13)    Calculate what it costs for you to live monthly, annually? Calculate the children’s needs annually so you have a good understanding of your needs and budget to live. This will be good to know as you prepare to be on your own and as you negotiate with your spouse during divorce.

Divorce has many elements, the emotional, the spiritual, financial and especially important- the children. The decisions you make now will affect you and the children the rest of your life. So, great caution and advice is needed as you proceed.

Don’t go through divorce alone. You need support.

Divorce Support Anonymous is here to help.

* The above information should not be considered legal advice, but a start list of things to consider as you begin to go through divorce.