1. Gather Important Documents – Makes copies of everything you can find: marriage certificate, birth certificates, marital agreements, tax returns, W-2s, real property deeds, car titles, bank statements, retirement account statements, brokerage account statements, life insurance policies, mortgage statements, loan documents, credit card statements, business records, paystubs, estate planning documents, etc.
2. Make a List of Assets – Go through the home and create an inventory of all household items and family possessions: cars, furniture, appliances, jewelry, artwork, antiques, collectibles, electronics, luxury items, valuables, etc. Don’t forget to check storage units and safe deposit boxes. Also, take digital photos and videos with a time stamp in case something goes missing during the divorce process.
3. Open Separate Bank Accounts – Open a new checking and savings account of your own and start depositing your paychecks directly into those accounts. If you’re worried your spouse is going to drain a joint bank account, withdraw no more than half of the joint funds and deposit them into your separate account. But if you decide to do that, notify your spouse in writing and keep track of your spending of the joint funds.
4. Make a Plan for Custody – If you have children, plan how you expect to divide parenting time with the other parent. If custody will be a contentious issue, keep notes about important or key events in case you later have to testify in court regarding your relationship and involvement with the children. But don’t involve the children in any custody battle, which will harm them emotionally.
5. Build Your Support Network – Divorce can be a tough, painful, and overwhelming process. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends who can help you sort through the emotions and stresses. If you can’t get support from family and friends, work with a professional therapist to help you learn new coping strategies for the divorce.