Thinking about getting a divorce in Pennsylvania? In addition to surrounding yourself with the advice and support of family and friends, there are five (5) basic things you can do to help you throughout the process.
1. HIRE THE RIGHT PA DIVORCE LAWYER
There are many divorce lawyers, but you should choose the right one for you. Most will offer a free consultation over the phone; however, you should meet with the lawyer in person before hiring one. Lawyers will often schedule an initial meeting for a small fee. These meetings can be invaluable because it gives you a chance to discuss your specific situation with an experienced professional. You should use this meeting to get answers to important questions:
- Has this lawyer handled a case similar to mine?
- Does this lawyer have a thorough knowledge of the legal process and procedures involving divorce, child custody, division of marital property and other family law matters?
- Will this lawyer help me make better, more informed decisions by explaining the PA divorce law to me? For example, will this lawyer take the time to help me understand issues like how child support, spousal support and alimony are calculated? The factors the court will consider when making child custody determinations? And how a Pennsylvania court will likely divide the marital property?
- Does the lawyer ease my anxiety about my case?
- Will this lawyer communicate with me when I need him or her?
You should feel comfortable with your lawyer. Just like choosing friends, you want someone who you feel you can trust and who will give you straightforward advice and guidance. The issues involved in divorce and related matters are far too important and the risks are far too great not to take the time to find the right lawyer.
2. YOUR CHILDREN
Consideration for your children during a divorce should never be forgotten. Remember, the issues that cause you and your spouse to separate and divorce are between you and your spouse and have nothing to do with the children. The children still need both of you as parents so you should consider some of the following do’s and don’ts.
- Do not fight in front of the children.
- Do not say derogatory or mean things to your children about your spouse.
- Do not ignore the children throughout the process.
- Do not fight for custody of the children out of spite.
- Do communicate with your children. Be there for them. They will have a lot of questions and they might be confused and worried.
- Do break the news to the children with your spouse, if possible. It is generally best if both parents tell the children together.
- Do encourage a loving relationship between the children and the other parent.
- Do consider counseling for professional advice and guidance through the process. Communicating issues involving the divorce can be tricky depending on the age of the children.
Make every effort to get along with the other parent in front of your kids. It is natural for children to be emotionally torn between both parents, so it is best to present a unified parental front. This will help your children cope with the situation. Stay focused on your children and their needs throughout this very stressful period of their lives. Both parents, with the help of their divorce attorneys, will need to develop a parenting plan for child custody and visitation rights.
3. YOUR FINANCES
If you left the family’s finances (e.g. savings, paying the bills) up to your spouse, now is the time to get involved. You should immediately become familiar with your family’s financial situation. This will be important in terms of working out issues of alimony, child support and equitably dividing the marital property. A detailed account of your family’s finances will help you and your divorce attorney prepare for these matters. You should make a list of what you and your spouse own. You should also gather important financial paperwork such as tax returns, bank statements, retirement account statements, insurance policies, estate planning documents (Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney) and pay stubs. Make a list of the family’s debts including credit cards, student loans, mortgage, etc.
You should educate yourself as much as possible for future financial planning. You will now be in sole control of your finances going forward, so you should learn how to budget, save and prepare for the financial needs of you and your children (education, medical expenses, etc.)
4. YOUR LIVING ARRANGEMENT
One of the toughest decisions divorcing couples face is determining their post-divorce living arrangements. You’ll need to decide which one of you will move out of the marital home, or if it is better to sell the home. This is an extremely important decision with many issues to consider. You and your divorce lawyer will want to discuss some of the following questions:
- Can I afford to live in the marital home after the divorce?
- Will I qualify for a new mortgage after my spouse leaves?
- Are there repairs that must be taken into consideration?
- Are there other homes in my children’s school district that might be better options?
- How close in proximity should the children be to the other parent?
These are some of the important factors you and your lawyer will discuss. You must have an idea of what you will need financially to survive on your own. If you sense that you or your spouse will be filing for a divorce, then it is a good idea to start planning now.
5. YOUR BEHAVIOR
It is important to keep in mind that your behavior will be under scrutiny throughout the course of your divorce. Conduct yourself accordingly. Many people do not realize the importance of good etiquette until it is too late. Behaviors that are perceived as negative or harmful can be used against you in a divorce or child custody proceeding. Consider your actions in the following circumstances:
- Social outings and your attitude toward friends, teachers, coaches, etc.
- Drinking, excessive gambling or drugs.
- Social media (e.g. Facebook, twitter). Be mindful of the impression you make on people. Do not post photos or comments that could be used as evidence against you.
- Communicating with your spouse. Text messages and emails can be used as evidence. Do not say, text or email anything that you will later regret. Instead, consider keeping things cordial with your spouse. Most divorce, custody, and financial matters are resolved through negotiated settlements. Being amicable with your spouse will help facilitate a quicker settlement.
- Your spending habits.
The Martin Law Firm divorce lawyers routinely handle divorce, child custody and other family law matters in Montgomery County, Bucks County, and Philadelphia County. We know that divorce matters can be difficult, but we will work hard to provide you with the professional services that you need. We are committed to serving you. Please call us today to speak to a divorce lawyer and to schedule an initial meeting at our office in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Call (215) 646-3980.