Divorce can be a difficult transition involving complicated emotions and weighty, life-changing decisions. If you're considering a Florida divorce and would be the one to initiate the legal proceedings, you have the opportunity to prepare yourself and plan for the future. This can be extremely beneficial, as careful planning can make even uncomfortable situations and changes go more smoothly. Here are a few simple things you can do before filing your divorce papers to better position yourself for success.
Gather Important Financial Documents
After a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is served, Florida gives divorcing couples just 45 days to complete a financial affidavit that the court will use to divide their marital assets and debts. Examples of documents needed for this disclosure include copies of your income tax returns, bank statements, mortgage documents, credit card statements, personal financial statements, a detailed household budget, and any additional documentation pertaining to other marital debts or property. Gathering these documents before you file your divorce papers not only puts you ahead of the game, but also eliminates the possibility that an unhappy spouse might make it difficult for you to collect this important information when they learn of the impending divorce.
Address Joint Financial and Credit Accounts
If you have joint financial accounts with your spouse, now is a good time to open accounts in your name only and deposit half of the joint funds into them. This prevents your soon-to-be-ex from draining the funds in the joint account—whether out of spite or on the advice of their attorney.
While you're at it, it's best to pay off and close all joint credit account before you file for divorce, if possible, to prevent your spouse from running up additional and unnecessary debt. If you're not able to pay off your credit balances prior to filing for divorce, you may be able to have the accounts frozen instead.
Establish Credit in Your Own Name
Divorce can change your credit score and financial status, making it difficult to purchase a home, vehicle, or other big-ticket item. If you shared credit with your spouse during your marriage, it's important to prepare for post-divorce financial independence by establishing your own credit. Fortunately, building up a good credit score can be as simple as getting a credit card in your name alone and making on-time payments.
Make a Post-Divorce Budget
Estimating your post-divorce living costs and determining how much income you'll need to make ends meet can help you avoid unpleasant financial surprises. That's not all: Knowing your financial needs also makes it easier to evaluate the fairness of settlement offers and gives you an idea of what you can ask for if your divorce case goes to trial.
Determine Your Goals for Child Custody
Set reasonable goals for child custody and visitation, which is known as “time-sharing” in Florida divorces. Public policy in the Sunshine State is that children can benefit from regular, ongoing contact with both parents after a divorce. To that end, unless there's cause to believe that joint parenting would be harmful to the child, the court will encourage—or order—an equitable division of child-rearing responsibilities.
Figure Out Your Living Arrangements
Give some thought to your living arrangements—both during and after the divorce. While you may be tempted to move out of the marital home to avoid conflict, doing so can negatively impact your case. Consult a knowledgeable divorce attorney before making any changes to your living situation.
Find Out If You're Eligible for a Simplified Divorce
You and your spouse may be eligible for a faster, easier type of divorce—known as a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage—if the wife isn't pregnant, the marriage doesn't involve any minor children, you can both agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, provide proof of Florida residency, and come to an agreement regarding the division of marital assets.
Hire an Experienced Florida Divorce Attorney
Divorce often involves complicated legal issues and litigation. Without a knowledgeable and experienced divorce attorney, you simply can't be sure that your rights and interests are protected. Don't leave your future to chance. The sooner you consult and hire a divorce attorney, the better.
Request a Free Initial Divorce Consultation
Considering a Florida divorce? You've come to the right place. At Good Life Legal Services, we use a practical approach and creative solutions to resolve cases in our clients' favor. Find out how we can help you: Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a complimentary initial consultation.