Preparing for divorce can be difficult — not only emotionally and financially, but it can also take a toll on your physical health. If you’re planning to part ways with your spouse, it’s important to know what steps you can take to plan for the life changes that will be coming. While every case is unique, here are a few things you can do to prepare in advance:

1. Consider the Method of Divorce That’s Best for Your Case

When preparing for divorce, it’s essential to understand that not every case needs to be litigated. Depending on your situation, mediation or the collaborative process might be right for you. Mediation and collaborative divorce are both low-conflict, out-of-court methods that can be used to divorce. These processes can help you and your spouse remain amicable for the benefit of your children and allow you to remain in control of the outcome of your divorce.

2. Consult with an Attorney to Learn About Your Rights

One of the first things you should do when you are preparing for divorce is to consult with an attorney. Even if you think your divorce will be uncontested, it’s a good idea to schedule a consultation as soon as possible so you can make informed decisions about your divorce. A divorce attorney can explain what your process options are, what you should expect during the legal process, advise you regarding your rights, discuss your options, and help develop a strategy for your case. Speaking with an attorney can also give you peace of mind as you go through one of the most stressful times of your life. Many times people hear stories about things relating to divorce that are not accurate statements so get accurate information from reliable sources.

3. Gather Your Financial Documents

Marriage isn’t just an emotional relationship, it’s also a financial partnership. Whether you are using the collaborative process or mediation — or if litigation is the only option — full financial disclosure is required in divorce to decide alimony/spousal maintenance, child support, and property division. Since it can be a time-consuming effort, it’s a good idea to start gathering your financial documents as soon as you begin preparing for divorce. This includes tax returns from the last three years, bank statements, paystubs, mortgage documents, retirement account documentation, credit card statements, and any other paperwork concerning your property, assets, or debts.

4. Make a List of Your Property and Debts

One of the issues that must be determined before a judge will sign your divorce decree is how your marital property, assets, and debts will be divided. It can be helpful to make a list of your separate property and the debts you incurred before you were married — as well as the property and debts that were acquired during the course of your marriage. While property that was once separate can sometimes be commingled with marital property, your attorney can help you characterize each asset and discuss your goals regarding property division. In Minnesota, all assets acquired during a marriage are assumed to be marital and subject to an equitable division; if someone wants to claim that an asset is non-marital, they have the task of gathering documentation to support their claim, unless both people agree they do not need to prove it. This can be a challenging issue in divorce for some people.

5. Put the Best Interests of Your Kids First and Foremost

The divorce process isn’t only tough on the spouses involved. It’s also hard on your children. While you are preparing for divorce, be sure to put their best interests first. Keep the children out of the divorce as much as possible and never speak negatively to your children about their other parent. Rather than battle over custody matters, focus on creating a positive parenting plan that will ensure your children get to spend quality time with each parent. If there are legitimate safety concerns related to the children, talk to an attorney about how this can be addressed.

6. Refrain from Posting About Your Divorce on Social Media

If you use social media, refrain from posting about your divorce. When preparing for divorce, you might even consider deactivating your account until your case has been finalized. Even if you think your account is set to private, the information you post may still be found and can be taken out of context. By not using social media during the divorce process, you can also avoid certain emotional triggers as you heal, such as seeing photos of your ex with a new partner or being reminded of your wedding anniversary.

7. Create a Budget

Your financial situation during and after divorce might look very different from when you were married. Two homes cost more than one. As you are preparing for divorce, it’s crucial to create a budget and stick to it. Include all household bills, food, clothing, and other necessities. You’ll also need to account for legal fees, moving costs, and health care if you were under your spouse’s insurance plan. Create a spreadsheet of your income and living expenses — and estimate what they will be after the divorce has been finalized — to help ensure you make good financial decisions. If finances are not your strength, attorneys know financial professionals who can help. In the Collaborative process, many couples use a financial neutral to assist on developing budgets, verifying income and assets and working on non-marital asset issues. This professional can be an invaluable team member in a divorce.

8. Don’t Forget to Practice Self Care

Even when spouses agree that they should end their marriage, divorce is emotionally draining. Don’t forget to take some time out for yourself and practice self care. Make sure you eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest to take care of your physical health. Also, set aside some time to relax, participate in a hobby you enjoy, meditate, or journal to care for your mental health. Now is also a good time to start building the support network you need as you navigate the emotional rollercoaster that can come with preparing for divorce. If you don’t want your divorce to be a fight, ask your support system to not provide divorce war stories that increase stress and increase negative dynamics. You can always tell people that you know they mean well but you don’t find that helpful.

Contact an Experienced Minnesota Divorce Attorney

Preparing for divorce can be challenging. However, having a compassionate and knowledgeable divorce attorney by your side can make the process easier. Divorce and family law attorney Louise Livesay has been committed to helping clients in the Twin Cities area resolve their divorce cases respectfully and peacefully for over two decades using alternative dispute resolution methods such as the collaborative divorce process. We welcome you to contact us online for a consultation or by calling 651-294-2338.