Divorce Financial Planning

7 Essential Steps to Take Before Filing for Divorce

Get ready for a smoother divorce journey with our comprehensive guide on the 7 essential steps to take before filing for divorce. Discover expert insights and advice to ensure you're well-prepared for this significant life transition.

November 6, 2023
7 Essential Steps to Take Before Filing for Divorce

7 Essential Steps to Take Before Filing for Divorce

Filing for divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotionally challenging experiences of your life. It's important to take the necessary time to prepare yourself for this major life change before you take the plunge. By following these seven essential steps, you can be sure that you're making an informed decision and that you're ready to move forward with confidence.

Understanding the Divorce Process

The first step in preparing for divorce is to understand the process. This includes researching the divorce laws in your state and familiarizing yourself with the different types of divorce that are available. Getting a clear understanding of what you can expect will help you make informed decisions throughout the process.

Researching Divorce Laws in Your State

Each state has its own set of divorce laws that govern the process. It's important to become familiar with these laws to know what to expect and how to proceed. This may include learning about residency requirements, grounds for divorce, and more.

For example:
In some states, you may be required to live separately for a certain amount of time before filing for divorce. In other states, there may be specific grounds for divorce, such as adultery or cruelty. Understanding these laws can help you prepare for the process and avoid any potential roadblocks.

It's also important to understand how property division works in your state. Some states follow community property laws, which means that all marital property is divided equally between the spouses. Other states follow equitable distribution laws, which means that property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. Knowing which laws apply to your situation can help you plan for the future.

Familiarizing Yourself with Different Types of Divorce

There are many different types of divorce, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the differences between mediation, collaborative divorce, and traditional divorce can help you choose the best approach for your situation.


Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party helps the spouses reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This can be a good option for couples who are able to communicate effectively and are willing to work together to reach a resolution.


Collaborative divorce is a process in which each spouse hires their own attorney, but they work together to reach a settlement outside of court. This can be a good option for couples who want to avoid the stress and expense of a traditional court battle.


Traditional divorce involves each spouse hiring their own attorney and going to court to resolve any disputes. This can be a good option for couples who are unable to reach an agreement through mediation or collaborative divorce.

Ultimately, the best approach will depend on your unique situation. It's important to consider factors such as the level of conflict between you and your spouse, the complexity of your financial situation, and the needs of any children involved.

Assessing Your Financial Situation

Divorce can have a significant impact on your financial well-being. Before you file, it's important to take a close look at your financial situation to get a clear understanding of where you stand and how divorce may affect you.

Divorce is a major life event that can have significant financial implications, both in the short-term and in the long-term. It's important to take the time to assess your financial situation before filing for divorce, so that you can make informed decisions throughout the process.

1. Gathering Financial Documents

Start by gathering all of your financial records, including bank statements, tax returns, retirement account statements, and more. This will help you get a clearer picture of your financial situation and make informed decisions throughout the divorce process.

It's important to be thorough when gathering financial documents. Make sure to collect all relevant records, including those from joint accounts and assets. This will help ensure that you have a complete understanding of your financial situation.

Additionally, it's a good idea to make copies of all financial documents and keep them in a safe place. This will ensure that you have access to important information throughout the divorce process.

2. Evaluating Assets and Debts

Next, assess your assets and debts. This includes everything from cars and real estate to credit card debt and student loans. It's important to get a clear picture of what you own and owe to ensure that your divorce settlement is fair and equitable.

When evaluating assets and debts, it's important to consider both individual and joint property. In many cases, assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered joint property and may be subject to division during the divorce process.

It's also important to consider any tax implications associated with dividing assets and debts. For example, dividing retirement accounts may result in tax consequences that should be taken into account when negotiating a divorce settlement.

Related: Making Important Financial Decisions During a Divorce

Considering the Impact on Children

If you have children, divorce can have significant impacts on their lives as well. It's important to consider their needs and work to minimize the disruption that divorce can cause. Children are often caught in the middle of a divorce and can feel overwhelmed, confused, and hurt.

It's important to keep in mind that children may not fully understand what is happening and may have a lot of questions. It's important to answer their questions honestly and openly, but also in a way that is age-appropriate. Younger children may need more reassurance and comfort, while older children may want more details and explanations.

Discussing the Situation with Your Children

Start by discussing the situation with your children. Be honest and open with them about what is happening, but also be mindful of their feelings. Let them know that both parents still love them and will be there to support them throughout the process. It's important to avoid placing blame or speaking negatively about the other parent in front of your children.

Children may also benefit from speaking with a therapist or counselor who can help them process their feelings and emotions during this difficult time.

Related: Navigating the Divorce Process With Children

Exploring Custody Options

Work with your spouse and your attorney to explore custody options that can meet the needs of your children. This may include joint custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and more. It's important to keep in mind that the needs of your children should be the top priority when making custody decisions.

It's also important to keep communication open with your ex-spouse regarding your children. This can include sharing important updates about your children's lives, discussing any concerns or issues that arise, and working together to make decisions that are in the best interest of your children.

Remember that divorce can be a difficult and emotional time for everyone involved, but by keeping your children's needs in mind and working together, you can help minimize the impact on their lives.

Related: Crafting Effective Custody Arrangements and Parenting Plans

Seeking Legal Advice

Divorce is a difficult and often emotionally charged process. Before you file for divorce, it's important to speak with a qualified attorney who can help guide you through the process. An attorney will not only help you understand your rights and responsibilities, but also provide valuable support and guidance throughout the entire process.

Finding the Right Divorce Attorney

Choosing the right divorce attorney is critical to the success of your case. Look for an attorney who has extensive experience in divorce law and who will advocate for your best interests. You can start by asking friends and family members for recommendations, or by doing research online to find attorneys in your area.

Once you have a list of potential attorneys, schedule consultations with each of them to discuss your situation and evaluate whether they are the right fit for you. During the consultation, be sure to ask about their experience with divorce cases similar to yours, their approach to handling cases, and their fees.

Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

Once you have chosen an attorney, it's important to work closely with them to understand your rights and responsibilities throughout the divorce process. This includes everything from property division to child custody and support agreements.

Your attorney will help you navigate the legal system and ensure that your rights are protected. They will also work with you to negotiate a fair settlement with your spouse, or represent you in court if necessary. In addition to legal guidance, your attorney can also provide emotional support and help you make informed decisions about your future. They can help you weigh the pros and cons of different options and develop a plan that is in your best interests.

Overall, seeking legal advice before filing for divorce is critical to ensuring a fair and successful outcome. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can navigate the complex legal system and protect your rights and interests.

Exploring Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods

Divorce can be a difficult and emotional process, but it doesn't have to be a courtroom battle. There are many alternative dispute resolution methods available to couples who want to avoid the stress and expense of traditional divorce. By exploring these options, you can find an approach that works for your situation and helps you move forward with your life.


Mediation is a popular alternative to traditional divorce because it is less confrontational and less expensive. In mediation, you and your spouse work with a neutral third party to negotiate a settlement agreement that works for both of you. The mediator helps facilitate communication and works to find common ground between you and your spouse. This approach can be highly effective, especially if you and your spouse are willing to work together to find a solution.

During mediation, you and your spouse will meet with the mediator to discuss your concerns and goals for the divorce. The mediator will help you identify areas of agreement and disagreement and work with you to find a mutually acceptable solution. Once you have reached an agreement, the mediator will draft a settlement agreement that can be submitted to the court for approval.

Mediation can be particularly beneficial for couples who have children, as it allows them to work together to create a parenting plan that meets the needs of their children. By working together in this way, couples can avoid the stress and conflict that can arise during a traditional divorce and create a more positive co-parenting relationship going forward.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is another alternative to traditional divorce that can be highly effective for couples who want to avoid the stress and expense of litigation. In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse work with a team of professionals, including attorneys, financial advisors, and therapists, to negotiate a settlement that works for everyone.

During a collaborative divorce, each spouse has their own attorney who is trained in collaborative law. The attorneys work together to help the couple reach a settlement that meets their needs and goals. In addition, the couple may work with a financial advisor to help them understand the financial implications of their decisions and a therapist to help them manage the emotional aspects of the divorce.

One of the key benefits of collaborative divorce is that it allows couples to maintain control over the outcome of their divorce. Rather than leaving the decision-making to a judge, the couple works together to find a solution that works for everyone. This can be particularly beneficial for couples who have complex financial or parenting issues to address.

Overall, there are many alternative dispute resolution methods available to couples who want to avoid the stress and expense of traditional divorce. By exploring these options, you can find an approach that works for your situation and helps you move forward with your life.

Related: How to Negotiate a Fair Divorce Settlement

Preparing for Life After Divorce

Divorce is a difficult and emotional process that can leave you feeling lost and uncertain about the future. However, with the right preparation, you can move forward with confidence and create a fulfilling life for yourself. Here are some additional tips to help you prepare for life after divorce:

Take Time to Heal

Before you jump into planning for the future, it's important to take the time to heal and process the emotions that come with divorce. This may involve seeking therapy or counseling to work through any unresolved feelings of anger, sadness, or grief. By taking care of your emotional well-being, you'll be better equipped to move forward and make sound decisions about your future.

Reconnect with Your Passions

Divorce can often leave you feeling lost and unsure of who you are outside of your relationship. Take this opportunity to reconnect with your passions and interests. Whether it's taking up a new hobby, joining a sports league, or volunteering for a cause you care about, finding new ways to engage with the world can help you rediscover your sense of purpose and identity.

Explore New Career Opportunities

Divorce can also be an opportunity to reassess your career goals and explore new opportunities. Consider taking classes or workshops to learn new skills or pursuing a career path that you've always been interested in but never had the chance to pursue. By investing in your professional development, you can create a more fulfilling and financially stable future for yourself.

Develop a Self-Care Routine

Divorce can be stressful and overwhelming, so it's important to prioritize self-care. This may involve developing a daily meditation practice, taking up yoga or exercise, or simply carving out time each day to do something that brings you joy. By taking care of your physical and mental health, you'll be better equipped to handle the challenges that come with rebuilding your life after divorce.

Building a Support System

As mentioned earlier, building a support system is crucial for navigating the emotional challenges of divorce. In addition to seeking therapy or counseling, consider joining a support group for individuals going through a divorce. These groups can provide a safe and supportive environment where you can share your experiences and connect with others who are going through similar challenges.

Planning for Future Financial Stability

In addition to emotional support, it's important to plan for your financial future after divorce. This may involve creating a budget to manage your expenses, exploring new career opportunities to increase your income, and developing long-term financial goals. Consider working with a financial advisor to create a plan that meets your unique needs and goals.

By taking these steps to prepare for life after divorce, you can create a fulfilling and financially stable future for yourself. Remember, the end of a marriage is not the end of your story. With the right mindset and support, you can move forward and create a life that you love.

Related: Financial Mistakes To Avoid In Your Divorce Settlement

Making the Final Decision

Once you've taken these steps, you'll be in a much better position to make an informed decision about whether or not to file for divorce. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons, and ensure that you're emotionally and financially ready to move forward.

Ensuring You're Ready to Move Forward

If you do decide to file, work closely with your attorney to navigate the process and ensure that your rights are protected. With careful planning and preparation, you can make the most of this difficult situation and emerge from it with a strong foundation for your future.

I hope this information was helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to chat with you. 

Connect with Jen

About the Author

As a Divorce Financial Analyst and Senior Wealth Advisor here at Vincere Wealth, Jen helps clients navigate the financial challenges and decisions that a divorce can present. Having someone guide you today in making sound financial decisions can have a significant impact on your financial well-being in the future. Jen takes great pride in guiding clients through the complexities of student loans, retirement planning, and marriage and divorce planning.

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