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How to Prepare for Divorce After the Holidays

By Stephanie Sauer, family law attorney at Livesay & Myers, P.C.

The holidays can be a stressful time for families struggling with the idea of separation and divorce. With the New Year comes motivation to work things out or the acceptance that things will not improve and divorce may be the only choice. Upon making the decision to separate and eventually divorce, many people do not take the time to properly prepare before beginning the process. Taking these four simple and logical steps can make initiating the divorce easier and set you up for emotional and financial success throughout:

  1. Keep a Timeline or Journal. This is common advice for those facing divorce, which they often ignore. People have a strong grasp of the major events of their life and usually believe they will be able to remember specific dates and times. However, the beginning of the divorce process is hectic. There are pleadings, court dates, discovery, and correspondence back and forth, which cause people stress and prevent them from being able remember details that could help their case. Prior to separating, take a few hours to sit quietly and think about the facts that have led you to divorce. Write down dates and times, describe each incident in as much detail as possible, include names of people who may have witnessed said incident or who would have additional information. You can then provide the timeline or journal to your attorney for their easy reference when preparing pleadings and discovery, and for trial.
  2. Review Your Finances and Assets. If your divorce is imminent, you should try to obtain as much information as possible about your recent finances and assets (retirement plans, stocks, etc). This may be seem daunting or intimidating if your spouse has been the primary person in charge of these matters but any information is helpful. If you don't know specific information then list the type of account, the name of the institution that you believe holds the funds, and the amount of money that you think could be in the account. If you believe your spouse has moved, withdrawn funds, or closed any accounts then list any relevant information leading you to that conclusion. If within your home you can access documents reflecting any finances or assets then take an opportunity, if available, to make copies of those documents.
  3. Make Copies of Personal Documents and Memorabilia. When divorcing many people quickly leave the marital residence to avoid the inevitable conflict. People sometimes separate in such a rush that they forget to take personal documents and memorabilia. They assume that they will get those items later, which is not always the case. Personal documents can include children's birth certificates, marriage licenses, and similar items. Memorabilia are the pictures, videos, children's belongings, personal gifts, and other objects that are not easily replaced and can be hard to value (they have an emotional value that cannot be quantified). The heartbreak and anger from later being unable to make copies or retrieve such items can take a serious toll on a person's emotions and mental health, and the divorce process. To avoid an unnecessary confrontation over personal documents and memorabilia during the divorce process, take time before the separation to collect pictures, videos, and other memorabilia and make additional copies for yourself or your spouse. Taking this step prior to initiating the divorce will not only save you time and energy later, but will help to keep your legal fees down because it is one less thing that has to be addressed and resolved in the divorce.
  4. Meet With an Attorney Prior to or Directly After Separating. Meeting with an attorney prior to separating can provide you with a wealth of knowledge and also give you some much needed comfort. As much as you might read online, you only really start to grasp the seriousness of the situation and what steps you need to take when you sit down with an attorney, explain your situation and receive honest feedback. Separating from your spouse and waiting to seek counsel until after you "get on your feet" is not always the best idea. While you are putting off seeing an attorney, your spouse may be dissipating marital assets or taking other actions that can hurt you in the divorce. Meeting with one or more experienced attorneys can set you up for success in the divorce process.


Stephanie Sauer is a family law attorney at Livesay & Myers, P.C. She is one of the firm's most experienced Fairfax divorce lawyers, having litigated every type of family law case in the courts of Northern Virginia.

Stephanie Sauer can be contacted by phone at (703) 865-4746 or or Visit Web Site

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