You have a couple of options for how to proceed. Initially of course you’re going to do some research online, but to really get started you are either going to call an attorney or call me. Finding a good attorney on your own is difficult, so please call me first for a referral to make sure you don’t head down the wrong path from the get go. (You need to avoid attorneys who can make your situation worse because they are either a hired gun with ridiculous fees or they are dabbling in family law and don’t know a lick about divorce.)
So, first call me for help in finding a responsible attorney. Next you have the choice of either filing divorce papers right away and then working on your Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA) with your spouse, or getting your affairs in order first and then filing. There are two reasons someone might file right away. One is that filing starts the clock ticking on your waiting period (90 days if you have kids, 60 days if no kids). Second, if you both want the divorce, the person who files first gives their attorney the opportunity to pick the judge. Though “judge shopping” isn’t exactly allowed, attorneys know who will be in session and who might be most favorable toward their client. If you have children you will need to include a temporary parenting plan when you file.
The other option is to get your affairs in order first, agree to the terms of your divorce, and then file. This approach might be appealing if you or your spouse need to ease into the process. Once you decide to divorce you have a lot of work to do. You need to take the state required parenting class if you have minor children (please make this the first thing you do once you start thinking about divorce!) and you have many records to dig up. You’ll need account numbers and balances for every last credit card, checking account, insurance policy, retirement fund, and mortgage. You and your spouse should both get a current copy of your credit report. You should provide each other with transaction information for the last 6 months of your retirement, savings, and brokerage accounts. You will want to talk to a mortgage specialist about your options for selling or refinancing the house.
There’s no real drawback to filing before you’ve created your MDA, the clock can tick and you can still take your time getting your agreement in place (you do not need to have your final hearing at the 60 or 90 day mark it can be later), but filing does give couples the sense that they have just boarded the divorce rollercoaster and emotionally you may not be ready for that step until you’ve spent some time learning what your financial future holds for you after divorce.
For more information about the process check out the How to Divorce page at Divorce Better Knoxville.com This website is intended to help you get through the initial learning curve of divorce. I offer effective mediation services and can also meet with you early in the process to walk you through the decisions you will need to make, work on a solid and functional parenting plan, and help you understand what information you will need to make the best decisions for you and your family. Please take some time to browse the website and blog posts for information and call me with any questions. There really is a better way!