I am considering separating from my spouse, what should I do first?

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By John Jones, Esq.

Once you are sure your marriage cannot be saved by counseling for you, your spouse or as a couple, make an appointment to consult with a local attorney who is experienced in the Family Law field. He/she can advise you of your rights, duties and obligations under the law of the state where you reside. Based on his/her experience before the local judges, the attorney may also give you an opinion as to how a particular judge might decide the issues that are presented by the facts of your case.

Subject to the advice of an attorney of your choice, you should consider a number of things before separation:

1. Your spouse’s feelings as to separation – If your spouse feels as you do, try to work out an agreement as to the financial implications of your separation and possible divorce before you separate. Of paramount importance is resolution of any issues concerning custody of your children and the amount of time the children will spend with you and the other parent.

2. The reasons for your separation – For instance, if you are the victim of domestic violence, you may make an application for a court order to remove your spouse from your home, to restrain further contact with you, to award you custody of your children and set an amount for support of you and your children.

3. The acquisition and preservation of financial documents and information – You will need copies of all financial documents. These may include checkbook registers, bank statements, credit card charges and statements, real estate documents, income tax returns, retirement account and pension statements. Secure five years’ records, if possible. It is better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them.

4. Where you will live – Consider staying in the same general area as your former residence. Moving out of state or a significant distance away may make it very inconvenient and more expensive in the event of prolonged litigation with your spouse.

5. The effect of separation on you, family and friends – Do not underestimate how mentally and emotionally difficult the demise of a marriage can be. Family (yours and your spouse’s) and friends can be a great source of comfort and solace. However, they may be torn by being put “in the middle.”

These are just a few items for you to consider before separating from your spouse. There are a myriad of others, which can and should be explored with your attorney before you proceed.