Even though it must feel like it took a million steps to get to the end of your marriage, there are, in fact, a few more steps to take to initiate the process of divorce. These steps cover the basics:

Step 1: Check your records

stacking stonesThink about what you own, what you owe, and what critical documents you might need regarding your children. Do you have copies or scans of tax returns, bank statements, financial statements, loan applications, medical records, or educational records? Take the time to identify what you might need in the beginning stages of the divorce process and ensure you have your own access to these documents that does not depend on your spouse. If you do not have access to certain records and you are afraid that asking your spouse might tip them off, don’t fret—you will get to request and review any documents you want as part of the discovery process during the divorce and your attorney can still proceed without them.

The experienced attorneys at Brousseau Naftis Erick & Massingill, P.C. have represented clients in family law matters for decades. For more information, contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.

Step 2: Meet with attorneys

This step is critical, and you should meet with more than one. Your attorney is someone with whom you will share intimate details of your life and who you must trust with your most precious assets: your estate and your family. By meeting with a few potential attorneys, you can better ensure that you select one with whom you communicate well and understands your stated goals for representation. While your friends and family’s referrals are great sources for names of attorneys to meet with, the right attorney for you might be different than the right attorney for them, so schedule consultations, take the meetings, and then make the decision. Most family law attorneys charge a consultation fee for this initial meeting, but this selection process is so important that it is always worth the investment.

Step 3: Gather your support system

In addition to your friends and family, a therapist can be an invaluable part of your team as you go through a divorce. Even if you feel confident in your decision to move forward, schedule an appointment with a therapist as you prepare to file. As you go through the divorce process, regular therapy appointments will provide you with an invaluable sounding board, a place to reflect and process, and even just someone to vent to—and at a lower hourly rate than your attorney! (It’s worth noting that attorneys are not therapists, and time spent venting to your lawyer can add unwanted expense to an already expensive process.)

Step 4: File for divorce

For many, this step is the most difficult. While the actual drafting and filing of the Original Petition for Divorce is left to your attorney, making the decision to officially start the legal process is often very emotional. While no one is 100% ready to take this step, as it is not what anyone plans for, only you can decide when it is time to do so. Discuss with your attorney when it is the right time for you.

Step 5: Settle in

While everyone’s divorce is different, it is rarely quick and easy. The road through divorce is full of ups and downs and it often does not go at the speed you want it to. The best thing you can do for yourself is to settle in, trust your attorney, and lean into your support system (Step 3!) to just take it as it comes. A lot went into your marriage and family to get it to this point, and it takes some time to unravel the complicated threads that make up your current situation. Divorce is difficult enough; do not use up your energy reserves fighting the process.

As anyone who’s been through it (or knows someone who’s been through it) knows, divorce is stressful. Preparing yourself mentally and emotionally before you begin the legal process can help you process and manage that stress and put you in a better place as you begin the next chapter of your life.