What Should You Do Before Filing for Divorce?

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By: Dilawar Fazal

Divorce is not an easy process. In addition to the emotions involved, you will need to consider the logistics of separating your lives, finances, and child custody. Although it may seem overwhelming, there are some important steps you should take to move on. Once you have a roadmap of the process ahead of you, it becomes much easier to start working toward a divorce or separation.

Explore Counselling 

When a marriage is on the verge of falling apart, it can be painful for everyone involved. Divorce can take a heavy financial and emotional toll, and couples should try their best to avoid it. With the help of professional counselling or supportive loved ones, a couple considering divorce should first explore reconciliation.

Speak to an attorney

If counselling does not repair your marriage, you should speak with an experienced divorce attorney. There is no solution that applies to all couples undergoing a divorce. Only a divorce attorney can factor in your individual circumstances and provide you with holistic analysis of your situation. Your attorney can guide you through the process with an estimate of the time, money, and legal processes involved before you move forward.

separation or divorce?
A legal separation does not end your marriage and instead puts it on hold. Subject to a court’s approval, spouses can create a legal separation agreement that outlines their ability to live separately, divide their assets and liabilities, discontinue their financial connection, and plan for child custody. This grants the spouses time to reconsider their option to divorce and get a more accurate view of what life with divorce may look like.

Divorce can be especially difficult for children. By discussing child custody early on with an attorney, spouses can minimize the adverse impact of their divorce on their children.

financial costs
When considering divorce, spouses should familiarize themselves with its costs. Expenses are incurred in court filings, attorney fees, mediation fees, other evaluations, guardian ad litem fees, and other associated fees. Additionally, if the details of the divorce are contested, such as child custody or property ownership, the cost of divorce can increase.

What are the initial steps for getting a divorce?

The spouse(s) seeking a divorce should:

  1. Hire an attorney. An experienced attorney can strengthen a spouse’s ability to assert their rights in a beneficial way. Hiring an attorney at the start allows spouses to see the divorce process more objectively.
  2. Manage finances. To reach a favorable settlement, individuals should consolidate the information on their joint assets, liabilities, proof of income, joint and individual financial accounts, and other belongings. Also, they should close any joint credit accounts so the other spouse does not use them for divorce-related expenses.
  3. Discuss matters with your spouse when possible. In certain cases where violence or abuse is an issue, discussion is not advisable. However, in other situations a discussion with the other spouse can provide an opportunity to either reconcile or develop strategies for the divorce process.
  4. Explore dispute resolution outside of court. Mediation is one of the most effective ways to avoid litigation in divorce cases. The process allows both the spouses to meet under the guidance of an objective and qualified third person, or mediator, who suggests ways the couple can reconcile or settle. Mediators are trained to steer the conversation toward the couple’s mutual benefit when dealing with complicated issues, such as child custody, child support, spousal support and property division.
  5. File a divorce petition.
    • Residency Requirement:
      To file for a divorce, one of the spouses must meet the minimum residency requirement in the state where they file. Usually, there is a minimum amount of time that the individual must reside in the state before filing for divorce. The spouse must file a legal petition for divorce before the local court, detailing the legal grounds for divorce and any other information required by the respective state.
    • Legal Grounds:

      In the divorce petition, spouses can allege any wrongdoing of the other party (at-fault divorce) or allege no wrongdoing and merely ask for divorce on basis of irreconcilable differences (no-fault divorce). Most states accept irreconcilable differences as a valid ground for divorce. Other states allow parties to obtain a divorce after a period of separation.

      While faults acceptable to the courts for divorce vary from state to state, some of the common ones are adultery, abandonment, substance abuse, or felony. In such cases, the courts consider the plausibility of such allegations to determine child custody, child support, spousal support, and division of property.


Considering divorce? Meet with an experienced Chugh, LLP family law attorney to discuss and understand your options. Every divorce is different. Get personalized advice tailored to your situation.

Divorce laws vary by state. Some information may only apply in certain states. Also, the dynamics of divorce vary according to the length of the marriage, presence of children, entanglement of property, and financial circumstances of each spouse.


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