After much consideration, you have decided it is time to end your marriage.  The next steps may seem easy – hire an attorney to handle everything – but that’s not the case.  In fact, preparing for your divorce may take as much time and energy as you put into trying to save your marriage.


You will need to gather your tax returns, W2s, bank statements, and retirement account statements. These documents are a critical part of determining your financial future.  Your income, savings, and investments will all be significant when determining spousal and child support and the division of assets.

Do you have life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, or health insurance policies? If so, you will need those records as well.  You can call your insurance company to get a statement of the most up-to-date cash value (if any) on each life insurance policy.


What you owe is just as important as what you own, as debts will also need to be allocated between you and your spouse. You will need to know the payoff amounts on your mortgage and any car loans, as well as any other loans you or your spouse have taken out individually or jointly.   You will also need any credit card statements to demonstrate outstanding balances.


Most people never sit down and figure out what their living expenses are; they tend just to pay bills month after month.  If you are about to change your living situation and your cash flow, it is crucial to have an idea, in advance, of what your monthly expenses are. How much do you spend on groceries, electric, cable, mortgage, etc., and how much money do you need each month to maintain your standard of living?


Remember, divorce affects not just you, but it has a profound impact on your children as well.  Think about how much time you and your spouse each want to spend with your children after your divorce. Is it feasible with school, work, and extracurricular activities?  Will your spouse be able to take on more or less responsibility? Will you need to hire someone to help with the children?


Everyone has an idea of what their best-case scenario would be in a divorce settlement, but the reality is that compromise will be required on both sides.   Therefore, in addition to knowing your best-case scenario, you need to visualize compromise scenarios that will be acceptable to you.


 Consider seeking out the advice of a therapist – for you, or anyone else in your home who would benefit from counseling. Therapists deal with divorce scenarios regularly and can help you weed through the emotions that come with a divorce.