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✅ What are the first steps to take when getting a divorce? 
✅ How should you prepare for a divorce? 

Here’s ⬇️⬇️ a breakdown of the divorce process, from start to finish.

1. How to decide whether you should get a legal separation or a divorce:

❗️ Separation means you can live apart while staying married, but will put all the details of your divorce in a contract/separation agreement. 

❗️ Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage, so separation delays the divorce by the time period required in your state to be living separate and apart.

If you decide to start the divorce process, there are options for types of divorce.
💡Uncontested/collaborative (how likely is your spouse to agree to the divorce and the terms) versus Contested Divorce/litigation.
💡 Fault divorce or No-fault divorce.
💡 Mediation.
💡 Arbitration.
Uncontested divorce or collaborative divorce is the quickest option, as it requires least time. ⏳
💰💰If you’re wondering how much a divorce costs: legal fees are often a flat fee for uncontested divorce or may be hourly fees for contested divorce/litigation. 

2. Think through the biggest issues and decisions, and make a divorce decision checklist: 

✅ Who moves out?
✅ Who will the kids live with?
✅ Who will be the visiting parent?
✅ Will you share physical custody and shuttle kids back and forth between homes?

Keep in mind that each state has their own residency jurisdiction requirements – some need you to live in their state for at least 6 months to get a divorce there. Others may require a whole year, or a different amount of time. ‼️

States also determine what they consider to be fair for your kids’ custody situation. California, for example, has a joint residential custody arrangement as their default arrangement. In other words, they will push you to keep the 50/50 physical custody arrangement after divorce.

Other states are different. In New York, the joint legal custody with residential custody to the mother is the usual default arrangement, with parents sharing the kids’ out-of-school time equally (every other weekend with each parent, alternating holidays with each parent). 👨‍👦 👩‍👦

3. Plan ahead. 🙏

If you are moving out – figure out how you will support yourself. You need to figure out if you can afford your own place for yourself and the kids. Make a moving out checklist.🧾

4. Calculate your household budget. 

Calculate your income and the income of your spouse. Then calculate all family income, which includes salaries, business income, self-employed income, rental income, investment income, etc. Expenses include living expenses, meals, cars payments, gas, insurance, personal grooming and care, as well as kids’ extracurricular activities. 🧾🧾

Not only do you need this for step five, but this will also be crucial to surviving the divorce financially.

5. Prepare financial statements for your divorce. 

Make sure you are prepared with all of the necessary documents for the divorce process:
– Three years of tax returns and W-2s
– 1099s
– The past three months’ current year paystubs for both spouses
– Bank and credit card statements
– Investment accounts
– Pension funds, IRAs, and/or 401(k)s
– Mortgage documents, deeds, and other documents relating to property ownership, vehicle ownership, leases, and financing

6. Find a good divorce attorney ⚖️

It is always worth getting a divorce lawyer. That being said, you and your lawyer must have similar mindset to have a successful divorce process. This is the most effective way to get divorce help and avoid missing any steps.  Talk to a couple of lawyers if necessary. Don’t rush, as they will be your partner in this process. You and your divorce attorney will be a team. Pick whomever makes you the most comfortable and seems like they will fight for your interests while doing everything in a peaceful way. 

7. Make sure to avoid physical altercations with your spouse, avoid getting arrested, or having him/her be arrested. 🚓

8.  File for divorce. Obtain index number.

9.  Serve your spouse with the divorce papers. 

The way your spouse will be served with service of divorce process is a sensitive issue: remember that a process server delivering them the divorce forms will likely upset them. 🤬🤧

10. Determine what the major issues are in your divorce

– TEMPORARY (during the pendency of divorce) and FINAL custody
– Visitation
– Parenting plan and details
– Money issues including child support, alimony, splitting up assets, pension plans, and your marital home 🏚

11. Who gets the house in a divorce? 🏚

How will the marital home split be done? You have many options, including:
▶️ Sell the house and split the proceeds 
▶️ Buy your spouse out 
▶️ Your spouse buys you out

12. Keep cool, calm and collected through the process.

Always remember your end goal – minimize damage to your kids and family, to get started on your new life.

13. Decide when you are ready to settle your divorce. ☮️ 

Think of the future when discussing your divorce settlement.
 🤔 Your children’s needs as they get older physically and financially (private school, summer camp, braces, extracurricular activities, college tuition).
🤔 Your own future: what if you want to move to another state post-divorce?
 🤔 Your agreement should spell out what happens when a parent wants to relocate after divorce and how this will affect co-parenting. 
🤔 What happens when/if you remarry – your expenses, living arrangement, free time situation will change! Remarriage ️❤ after divorce doesn’t have to be complicated if you are prepared, knowing that a new spouse may have their own kids, or you may have new kids with new spouse, etc. 

14.  If you cannot settle amicably – prepare for a trial.

Most divorce cases are settled out of court, but it happens. If your case does go to trial, prepare to have to explain all of your financials, talk through your preference for custody/parenting/visitation, and explain why the other parent is not doing something right. Your lawyer will help you prepare for trial. 

15. Finalizing your divorce.

Make sure to get your original judgment of divorce with the final signed and notarized agreement of divorce, or the full court judgment laying out all the post-divorce issues.

If you’re looking for a divorce attorney near you in New Jersey or New York State, Marina Shepelsky is an award-winning lawyer with decades of experience in divorce law. Marina has experienced divorce in her personal life and will take your case with compassion and the utmost support for the benefit of your future, and that of family. 

Shepelsky Law Group’s offices are in Brooklyn, New York and service both NY and NJ. We are a group of legal professional ready to go to battle for you and complete your divorce with minimal damage to you and your family!

Shepelsky Law Group
Tel: (718) 769-6352