First, obtain and compile important documents even before you share your decision with your spouse, especially if they have greater access to financial accounts. These documents are important:
- Birth certificates and identification for your children and you
- Health records for your children and you
- Marriage license
- Life insurance policies
- Statements for all bank accounts
- Credit card statements
- Retirement and investment account statements
- Tax documents covering last year
- Employment contracts
- Your will
There are also other specific documents that are important if these exist:
- Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
- Separation agreement
- Restraining order
- Child custody and visitation orders
Deciding custody and other matters for children under 18 is extremely difficult, emotional, and complicated. Determine whether you or the other parent may move. Discuss how custody will be divided and whether a spouse will pay child support. Consider your children’s wishes if they are older.
Inventory your property and assets and decide how these will be divided. Begin with difficult and larger assets, like your home and vehicles, and then move to less contentious property, such as appliances.
Start preparing for your financial life without your spouse. Establish accounts and policies only in your name.
Plan a budget to handle expenses without your spouse’s income. This should cover the divorce and afterward.
Housing is a major expense even if your spouse is moving. Housing costs that exceed 25 percent of your income may be unworkable.
There are also other smaller but important things you should do to help assure your independence and your security:
- Create new passwords for your email, social media and private accounts
- Update health and life insurance policies or establish new policies
- Open a post office box for your mail
A lawyer can provide you with options and help you set reasonable expectations. They can represent your interest in negotiations and proceedings.