Almost everyone who gets a divorce wants to get through it with as little time, stress, and money as possible. That is not always possible, but even in a contested divorce, there are things you can do now to make the process quicker, easier, and less expensive.
- Create a timeline of events. In every family court proceeding, but particularly one involving child custody, the facts matter. People going through a divorce can really advance their case by putting together a timeline of key events that include dates and details and is arranged chronologically. This timeline, while it won’t be evidence at a trial, is a very crucial document. It allows you or your attorney to keep track of what happened when. This becomes critical when preparing key documents, such as a Motion for Temporary Orders or a Pretrial Statement.
- Start gathering your evidence, including texts, emails, photos, financial statements, etc. The next thing you can do is to start gathering your evidence. Using your timeline as a reference, you can go through your written communications (texts and emails) and see if you have an corroborating evidence around those dates. Save those messages and also print them. When print text messages, there are apps that can help. A printout of the text messages needs to show the date they were sent and need to be readable. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to use them in Court. Photos are certainly relevant, but you do not want to overwhelm your attorney or judge with too many photos. Pick the photos the best represents the point you are trying to make.
- Make a list of all property and make copies of current statements. In a divorce, everything that was acquired during the marriage, asset or debt, needs to be divided. If you do not know what exists, it gets very difficult to make sure you are getting your fair share. We meet so many people who have little knowledge about what assets they own. Most commonly, they have let their spouse run the finances, and they are totally unaware of what exists. But even when people are aware of the finances, they rarely know everything that exists nor do they know the value of their assets or even the extent of their debt. If you negotiate an agreement without knowing what assets and liabilities exist, you could be putting yourself in a bad situation.
- Terminate shared subscriptions and devices and change passwords. In the digital age, couples frequently share many accounts, such as cell phone accounts, Apple, Google, Netflix, Amazon, etc. Shared cell phone plans, shared accounts, shared subscriptions all provide access for your spouse to read. It is common for one spouse to be able to view the other spouse’s text messages and emails on a device that is under a shared plan. Divorce lawyers have a lot of stories about how a spouse’s snooping really derailed a case. To protect yourself, get a new account and a new device, and make sure you transfer yourself off any shared accounts and change any passwords your spouse may know.
- Reach agreements on what you can agree on. Some divorces are not likely to settle on some of the hot ticket issues like child support and spousal maintenance. But there are many smaller issues on which the parties can and should try to agree. The first item on that list should be dividing up the household items and furniture. You don’t want to take the issue of who gets the blender to the judge. Vehicles are another thing that should be easily divided, as usually each party takes the vehicle they drive. If they are of unequal value, the parties can agree on an “equalization payment,” a payment from one spouse to another to make sure they get an equal share of the vehicles. Settling these issues now saves you on attorney’s fees and keeps the focus on the bigger issues.