1. Consult an Attorney
Make sure you know what your rights and obligations are. Be aware of how your behavior could affect the outcome of any potential divorce proceedings, i.e., should you move out of the marital home?
2. Copy Documents
Make copies of everything you can find: tax returns, bank statements, check registers, investment statements, retirement account statements, employee benefits handbooks, life insurance policies, medical/dental insurance policies, mortgage documents, applications for credit, deeds and titles to property, financial statements, credit card statements, wills, social security statements, automobile titles, any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements between the parties, documentation of any child support either spouse already pays, etc. Remember to check the home computer for additional documentation. Florida requires certain documents be disclosed in all divorce proceedings. Find that list here. It is easier to obtain these documents before you separate than after.
3. Inventory Household and Family Possessions
List the major items: furniture, artwork, jewelry, appliances, automobiles, etc. Did you forget about anything in storage or that someone else is holding for you or borrowed from you?
4. Know the Household Budget and Expenses
Examine and record where every penny goes. This is important to determine if there are temporary needs while the divorce is pending and to determine the amounts owed between parties when negotiating a settlement or final judgment.
5. Determine How to Manage Family Debt
Try to pay down any debt you may have if you can before divorce. Division of debt is often a sticking point in divorce proceedings. Cancel credit accounts if one spouse is too willing to whip out the credit card for unnecessary items.
6. Find Out Exactly What Your Spouse Earns
Gain this information through paystubs, other documents, or casual conversation with your spouse’s business partner.
7. Make a Realistic Appraisal of Your Earning Potential
What is a realistic view of your earning potential before and after the divorce? Will some changes need to be made here? If you have been a homemaker for a lengthy period of time, will education help you become self-sufficient? Will your work schedule or location be effected by your divorce and your ability to care for your children? What child care needs should be considered?
8. Examine Your Own Credit History
Either establish or reestablish credit in your own, individual name.
9. Build a Net Egg of Your Own
Try to have access to your own money in case your spouse stops paying the household expenses or bills during the divorce proceedings. You may also need additional money for an attorney’s retainer, security deposit on a new residence, deposits on utilities, costs of moving, etc.
10. Put Your Kids at the Top of Your Agenda
Divorce is not about you or your spouse when children are involved. Children generally have no choice in the matter and their needs and wellbeing should always be your first concern. Keep their routines as normal as possible, don’t argue in front of the children, don’t bad-mouth the other party to the children, stay involved with your children and their activities as much as possible, and don’t use your children as your sounding board, psychologist, attorney, or counselor!