Being prepared for the worst is always better than being caught off guard. If you know what you are in for then you can prepare and hopefully speed up the process and start your new life. That is the ultimate goal of divorce -- to find that happiness again and enjoy the life that was given to us.
Being bitter and hoping to make your ex pay for whatever he or she did is only going to make the process more of a battle and go on and on. No one benefits from this way of thinking and most of all, if there are children involved, they will be the ones that suffer the most.
Here are ten things you should know about divorce:
1. It will be unpleasant: Regardless of what the other person has promised, going through divorce will typically bring out anger and bitterness. I was promised a certain amount of money and told how much he loves me and if we were to ever part ways, we would always be friends. This most likely will never be the case in a divorce as my divorce and custody trials have been anything but friendly and nice. When he realized it was over he told me he would "crucify" me in court.
2. Pick a good attorney: Find a divorce attorney you like and will present you in the way you want. There are attorneys that will provide free consultations. Go to at least three before deciding on the one you want. You have to feel comfortable and trust them as they will be spending a lot of time with you and will be representing you. It is also best to go with a partner of the firm if possible. Partners are usually taken more seriously than associates.
3. Plan: Any amount of planning you are able to do before actually filing for the divorce will help tremendously. Know how much it will cost to move out in case you are not able to stay in the marital home. You will need to open your own bank account as soon as possible to separate from the community bank account. Don't drain the community bank account. Try to not take more than half as this will look as though you are trying to take the other person's money and be vindictive.
4. Document everything in the residence: Take pictures or video of every room in the house. Take pictures of cars, outside of the house and patio area. Everything will have to be accounted for and it is best to have physical documentation for when you have to list every item that was ever bought while you were married. If you do not have proof, your ex can deny that it ever existed.
5. Make copies of important papers: Make copies of absolutely every important paper that has your name or your child's name on it. This includes birth certificates, passports, marriage license, deeds, car titles and registrations, social security documents, tax returns, credit card statements, bank statements, car insurance and health insurance information, trusts, retirement profiles. You will have to provide most of this information to the court, and it will be easier if you already have the original or a copy and you don't have to go to the expense of asking for the information through the attorneys -- it will save you money.
6. Keep a record after the date of separation: Once the divorce request has been submitted to the court, this date will be your date of separation. This is the day you were legally separated and the community property stops for some items. You still need to keep detailed records as you will be scrutinized about what you buy, where you live and what you are doing. I have kept a daily journal. This keeps track of what I do on a day-to-day basis in case accusations are made about my lifestyle.
7. Think about a co-Parenting plan: Prepare a co-parenting plan you would like implemented. If you can submit a well-thought-out plan for the children without a courtroom battle, it's better for everyone involved. Even if the ex does not agree to it, if you show the court you are proactive and are not trying to alienate the children from the other parent, the judge will look at this as a positive (in most cases).
8. Get therapy: Find some sort of counseling while going through this life changing event. You will need someone to talk to that is not a family member or a friend. You need someone who can help you understand what you are feeling, how to best deal with those feelings and can help you move on. Find a therapist for your children as they too may need someone to talk to.
9. Create a budget and be mindful of debt: Accept the fact that you may go into debt during this process. Don't let this stress you out. I decided my happiness and sanity was much more valuable than being financially secure and miserable. Create a budget and stick to it. Brainstorm how you can create or obtain the money that is needed to complete this process. I took a loan out against my retirement, my parents help me out as much as they can and I find other creative means to make extra cash. It was when I stopped crying every month when the bills would arrive and stopped stressing about where the money would come from that miracles started appearing. I have been in the process for two years and I'm still surviving!
10. Make a timeline: This will help you keep everything in perspective. You need to know that not all divorces are quick and easy. In fact, I was told that the average length of the divorce process is 18 months to two years. If you add custody issues into the mix, it can be much longer. My timeline is five years; my goal is to be completely divorced and "un-tied" from my ex in five years. This is all determined by how much fighting ensues during the process, if both parties want to just part ways than it will be smooth sailing. If one wants to fight, then legally they can drag the divorce out for a very long time.