Divorce is not an easy decision. It is often the result of long and careful consideration, fraught with emotional turmoil and uncertainty.
To help you navigate this complex process, Brodsky Renehan Pearlstein Bouquet Family Law in Maryland has prepared a list of seven crucial steps before filing for divorce. These steps will help you protect your interests and ensure that you are well-prepared for what lies ahead.
If you need help with your Maryland divorce, contact our legal team. We can provide the advice, support, and guidance you need to navigate this complex and emotional legal process.
1. Understand Maryland Divorce Laws
Before initiating the divorce process, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with Maryland’s divorce laws. The Old Line State has specific regulations regarding property division, child custody, alimony, and more.
Maryland recognizes two types of divorce: limited and absolute. A limited divorce is akin to legal separation, while an absolute divorce permanently dissolves the marriage. Grounds for divorce in Maryland include adultery, desertion, cruelty, and mutual consent.
Maryland divorce law offers both no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce. One no-fault ground is a one-year separation, where couples live apart for an entire year without interruption. This separation period allows for reflection and potential reconciliation, a feature unique to Maryland divorce law.
Fault-based grounds include adultery, desertion, cruelty, excessively vicious conduct, and certain criminal convictions. These grounds often require substantial evidence and can impact the division of marital property and alimony decisions.
Maryland follows an “equitable distribution” model for the division of marital property. This means that the court will divide property fairly, but not equally, based on various factors like the spouse’s economic and non-economic contributions to the family.
Furthermore, alimony or spousal support is not guaranteed in Maryland. It’s awarded based on factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial needs, age and health, and the ability to become self-supporting.
2. Consult with a Family Law Attorney
Consulting with a family law attorney is a crucial step in the divorce process. They can provide much-needed guidance and advice tailored to your specific situation. An attorney’s expertise in navigating complex legal frameworks can be invaluable during this emotionally challenging time.
They are skilled at deciphering the intricacies of divorce law and can help you understand your rights and obligations and work tirelessly to protect your interests. They can provide clear and comprehensive advice, whether related to child custody, spousal support, property division, or other legal issues surrounding divorce.
Furthermore, family law attorneys can handle negotiations with your spouse’s attorney. They can facilitate effective communication, minimizing the emotional strain often accompanying divorce proceedings. They can also help draft necessary legal documents, ensuring they are accurate and meet all legal requirements.
Having an attorney by your side during a divorce can provide much-needed peace of mind. Their expertise ensures that all aspects of your case are handled professionally, enabling you to focus on your personal well-being and the well-being of your family. A qualified attorney’s support and guidance can make a significant difference in the outcome of a divorce.
3. Gather Financial Documents
Gathering financial documents is a critical step in preparing for divorce. It provides a comprehensive view of your financial situation, enabling you to make informed decisions about your future. This step can also significantly streamline the divorce process.
You should collect documents that reflect both joint and individual assets and liabilities. These may include bank statements, retirement accounts, credit card statements, mortgage documents, and tax returns. Also, income documentation such as pay stubs, W-2s, and 1099s should also be collected.
Beyond assets and income, it’s equally important to gather documents related to debts, such as student loans, auto loans, and credit card debt. Understanding your marital debt is crucial for fair division during divorce proceedings.
Gathering these documents can be time-consuming, particularly in complex financial situations. However, this task is essential for your attorney and the court to accurately assess and divide marital property. It’s also important for determining alimony and child support.
4. Establish Your Credit
Establishing your credit is critical when preparing for divorce. Many individuals may not have credit in their names. This is often because they’ve shared joint accounts. However, having your credit is essential for achieving financial independence.
Building credit might involve opening a new, individual bank account or applying for a credit card in your name. Make any payments on these accounts on time and in full, as responsible financial behavior will reflect positively on your credit score.
Having a solid credit score can open up numerous opportunities. It’s often a key factor when renting an apartment, buying a new home, or securing a car loan. It may also affect your ability to open utility accounts, obtain insurance, or secure employment.
Establishing your credit before the divorce proceedings can make the transition smoother and more manageable. It’s a proactive step that can empower you financially and pave the way for a secure financial future after the divorce.
5. Create a Post-Divorce Budget
Creating a post-divorce budget is a practical and essential step to preparing for life after divorce. It helps to establish a clear picture of your future financial situation, enabling you to plan accordingly and avoid potential financial pitfalls.
List all anticipated income sources, including employment earnings, alimony, and child support. Then outline your expected expenses, including rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, health care, insurance, transportation, child care, and personal expenses.
It’s also important to account for changes that divorce might bring. For example, if you were covered under your spouse’s health insurance, you might need to budget for your coverage post-divorce. Similarly, your budget needs to reflect that change if you’re transitioning from a two-income household to a single-income one.
A post-divorce budget can help you avoid financial strain by identifying areas where you might need to cut back or if you need additional income sources. It’s a strategic tool that can help ensure financial stability and independence in your new chapter of life. Adjusting to a new financial reality takes time, but a well-planned budget can make this transition smoother.
6. Consider Your Children’s Needs
Considering your children’s needs is paramount when going through a divorce. It’s a challenging time for everyone involved, and your children’s emotional well-being and sense of security should be a top priority.
Think about their emotional needs. They often feel various emotions during a divorce. Open communication about what’s happening in an age-appropriate manner can help them understand their feelings. You might also seek the help of a child psychologist or counselor.
Consider their physical needs, such as housing, schooling, and health care. You’ll want to provide as much stability as possible during this time of transition. This might mean minimizing changes to their routines or staying in the same school district.
Think about the future. This includes planning their educational expenses, extracurricular activities, and college tuition. These considerations should be part of the discussions around child support and the division of assets.
Remember, each child responds differently to divorce. A supportive, understanding, and stable environment can help them navigate this challenging period and emerge from it feeling loved and secure. Always keep their best interests at heart when making decisions.
7. Take Care of Your Mental Health
Taking care of your mental health during a divorce is just as important as navigating the legal and financial aspects of the process. The end of a marriage can be one of life’s most stressful events, bringing up a range of emotions from sadness and anger to relief and fear. Here’s how you can prioritize your mental health during this challenging time.
Make sure to acknowledge your feelings. It’s normal to have a lot of mixed emotions during a divorce, and it’s important to let yourself feel them. Suppressing your emotions can lead to longer-term psychological distress.
It may be helpful to seek professional help. A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or counselor, can provide tools and strategies to help you cope. They can offer a safe and non-judgmental space to express your feelings and fears.
Remember the power of support networks. Friends, family, and divorce support groups can offer comfort, advice, and an understanding ear. These connections remind you that you’re not alone in this journey.
Also, please remember to take care of your physical health. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep can significantly impact mood and energy levels.
Remember, it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to prioritize your mental health. You’re going through a significant life change, and self-care is crucial.
Taking Time to Prepare for Divorce Is Recommended
Navigating a divorce is undoubtedly challenging. However, proper preparation can help mitigate some of the stress and uncertainty associated with the process. Before initiating a divorce, these seven steps can provide clarity and ensure you are well-prepared for the journey ahead.
Remember, every divorce situation is unique, and the advice given here is general. Please consider contacting a legal professional for specific guidance tailored to your situation. At Brodsky Renehan Pearlstein Bouquet Family Law, our team of experienced Divorce attorneys is here to help you through every stage, providing compassionate and comprehensive support.
Contact us today for more information.