As life slowly returns back to normal after the holidays, many couples who have been "sticking it out" often contemplate beginning the divorce process they have been putting off. So if you decide that now is the time to get things started, here is a list of actions that you can take before you file to make things easier for yourself once the case starts:
First, gather your financial records. Tax returns, W2 forms and end of year paystubs are necessary in order to assess the income of both parties. Copies of your most recent mortgage statement, any appraisals of the marital home that have been performed, statements from any retirement accounts, a recent statement from each credit card and maybe even a credit report for each spouse to identify unknown or forgotten debts.
Then, gather your thoughts. Think about where your priorities lie. Are you determined to keep the house at all costs or are you agreeable to listing it for sale? What kind of custody arrangement would you be comfortable with? Why do you feel that this arrangement is appropriate? If you have areas that are of particular concern, make sure you keep notes and make a list of questions and then seek legal counsel to help you through the process.
Lastly, consider marital counseling. Even if you feel certain that this divorce is unavoidable, sometimes this counseling can at least open lines of communication that have been closed for some time and help both spouses accept the divorce. This can help to ease some negative feelings you have towards your spouse, which can dramatically assist your chances of reaching an amicable settlement of y our divorce.