Some marriages decline slowly, over many years, and a divorce just seems like the natural conclusion to that chapter of your life. For these couples, it may not be difficult to discuss divorce if neither party is going to be surprised by it. But if you have come to this decision on your own and think your spouse will be surprised by this news, you need to plan not only this conversation, but steps to take before you even discuss it.
Before you tell a soul….
You’ve got some work to do first. Do not mention it to anyone who might even hint at it to your spouse before you take some steps to protect yourself.
Your best bet is to talk to a divorce attorney immediately. He or she can advise you on what you need to do to protect yourself and your assets.
At a minimum, you should document the balance in all of your accounts. Make copies of all your recent statements on your:
- Savings accounts
- Checking accounts
- 401K or other retirement accounts
- Credit card balances
- Personal or home equity loan balances
- Most recent tax returns
- Any other shared asset or liability
If there are specific reasons you are seeking divorce, and you have evidence like text messages or videos, save those. Document everything. Everyone thinks they know their spouse and what level he or she wouldn’t stoop to, but the loss of a significant portion of his or her assets can change a person.
Planning the conversation
Once you’ve documented everything, it’s time to plan the conversation. You’ll want to start thinking about the timing of the conversation, potential distractions, and your own personal safety.
You know your spouse’s patterns. Are they grumpy in the morning until they’ve had their second cup of coffee? Do they shut down early at night and have a drawn-out relaxation period before bed? Think about your spouse’s day, and when they might be most amenable to a difficult conversation.
Is his favorite team playing on TV? Is tonight her night to watch The Bachelor? Or is there a rush to get ready for work, get dinner on the table, or pick up the kids from school or sports? Pick a time when you will not have interruptions or have to end the conversation prematurely.
This is important. Does your spouse have any history of verbal, mental or physical abuse? Are you afraid they are going to lash out at you? You might need to have a third party present or have the conversation in a public place. If your spouse has a history of violence, you may also need to be prepared to file a restraining order. And if you do have a violent spouse, one of you might need to leave the home immediately. Have a plan for this, and a safe place to stay. Do not underestimate what a violent person is capable of when enraged.
Hopefully, you sought legal advice before you made the announcement, and you’ve followed our suggestions for documenting all of your financial accounts. But if you didn’t, don’t delay in hiring a divorce attorney now. If you don’t know how much money is in a joint account, how will you know if your spouse starts transferring it to a new bank account that you may not even know exists? If you don’t know the balance on your credit card statements, how will you know if they start racking up huge charges that you are going to share the responsibility for paying? You need to get your affairs in order immediately, if not sooner.
We’re here to help
The experienced attorneys at Kirkland & Sommers focus strictly on family law. We’ve helped hundreds of families like yours navigate the divorce process. And while there are similarities among most divorces, each one is also unique. We understand that your divorce will be a little different from the last one and the next one, so we will listen to the circumstances of your situation and give you advice that’s based on your needs. We are caring, compassionate professionals who understand what you are going through, and we will provide you with expert advice and legal guidance throughout the entire divorce process.
Before you talk to your spouse, talk to an expert. Give us a call today.