1. Gather documents. In order to properly represent your interests in a divorce or dissolution, your attorney will need to have a complete understanding of your and your spouse’s income and assets. In most cases, you will need to be able to provide the last three years’ tax returns, W-2s, K-1s, bank statements, credit card statements, and any ownership documents for your assets, such as deeds and settlement statements from real estate purchases, and vehicle titles. If you personally do not have access to these documents, your spouse will be expected to produce them during the divorce or dissolution process, but the more you can gather on your own, the more money you and your spouse will save on attorney fees in the long run.
2. Make a budget. It is important for you to understand what your financial needs will be as your family transitions from one household to two. This will help your attorney and your spouse’s attorney generate options to help you and your spouse meet your financial needs. If you will be moving, research the housing options in your desired location to get a sense of what’s available and what you can expect to spend. Make an initial budget based on the lifestyle you hope to be able to have going forward, which may include vacations, personal care, and savings, but be realistic about the amount of money that is available to go around between you and your spouse. In many cases, your spending will necessarily be different than it was while you were married.
3. Write down your goals. During the course of your dissolution or divorce, both you and your spouse will have to make compromises and be willing to do some give-and-take in order to resolve your case. It is important for both you and your attorney to understand what your overarching goals and interests are, because without doing so, it can become all too easy to get lost in the weeds, fighting about smaller issues when your time and resources would be better spent elsewhere. Your goals should be specific and realistic, and you should consider each facet of your divorce. Consider what type of relationship you want to have with your spouse after the divorce, what kind of relationships you want your children to have with each of their parents, and what sort of financial provisions you would like to have in place. Here are some examples of possible goals:
a. I want to be able to have joint birthday parties for the children with my ex.
b. I want us to continue to have enough money set aside to cover our children’s college tuition.
c. I want to be able to retire before age 70.
Once your goals have been identified, your attorney can help you unpack those specific goals to identify your interests, and help you navigate the negotiation process to help make sure your interests are met to the greatest extent possible.
4. Learn about your process options. There are a myriad of ways to pursue a divorce or dissolution in Ohio. Many cases are completed outside of court through negotiation, mediation or the collaborative process. In other cases, the client’s interests may be better served by seeking early judicial intervention by filing for divorce. Even after filing, there are a number of alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation, arbitration, and early neutral evaluation that may be explored to help you and your spouse maintain control over the outcome of your case and reach an agreed-upon settlement. It is also possible to enter into the collaborative process after the divorce is filed. It is important to consult with an attorney to determine which options are best for you and your family.
5. Care for yourself. Even the most amicable of dissolutions can take an emotional toll. This will be a huge period of transition for you and your family. While caring for your children, learning to adjust to new financial circumstances, and having to make a huge number of decisions related to your dissolution or divorce, it can be easy to deprioritize your own care and well-being. Make sure you stay connected to a strong support system of friends and family to help you through this process. Additionally, whether it’s exercise, therapy, or a favorite hobby, don’t neglect the things you need to keep yourself centered. Often times the best way to help your family through this transition is to ensure you are continuing to help yourself.
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