Q: I am going to get a divorce. What are my first steps?
A: First and foremost, I am very sorry to hear the news. Moving forward with a divorce, or dissolution as it is called in Arizona, is never easy. There are ways, however, with the right planning to make the process a bit smoother and easier for you:
- Pay attention to your mail: What bills are coming to the house? How much are they? Where do you bank and invest your money? Find a copy of your last few tax returns, including any business tax returns, and make copies of everything.
- Keep a calendar: Keep track of how often your spouse travels. Once you physically separate, you should also want to keep track of how often your spouse sees and contacts the children. This is important when trying to determine a parenting time schedule in the future. I have had many clients who claim that the other parent is hardly seeing the children, but this is very hard to demonstrate to the court. If you keep a separate calendar of your spouse’s travel and parenting time for numerous months, it will help validate your assertions and get the schedule you want.
- Change your thinking: As hard as it may be at times, you must find a way to put your love for your children above the disdain you have for your spouse. You two are the only parents your children have, and they should never be forced to be in a position where they have to choose sides or have anxiety because both of their parents will be at an event. You should be able to sit together at their graduations and dance together at their weddings. It may seem far-fetched at this time, but it can be a reality, depending, in part, on how you treat one another during the dissolution process.
- Consult with a qualified attorney: People receive a considerable amount of bad information through the media, movies and even from friends with the best of intentions. Every divorce is different and has its own individual circumstances and, as such, your dissolution process needs to be tailored specifically to your family. Unfortunately, much of my practice involves modifying orders for people who previously retained attorneys that do not limit their practice to family law (or they did not retain an attorney at all), and it costs them twice as much as it would have had they retained the proper attorney from the beginning. Note that many orders cannot be modified at all, which makes it imperative that your case is handled correctly from the start.
There is life and happiness after a divorce… you’ll see. I wish you the very best of luck.
Lindsay E. Benjamin, J.D. is of counsel and focuses on family law at the Tyler Allen Law Firm in Phoenix.