Divorce tends to create scenarios that many people do not anticipate. Therefore, at least at the beginning of a case, you should take some time to process. How you begin your divorce case will set the tone for the rest of the proceedings. This in turn means that a carefully thought out road map of your divorce will also most likely be a cost saving tool even if your divorce is not agreed. When preparing to file for divorce, you should take some time to determine what type of divorce case you may be facing. This determination may be made by taking a few recommended steps as enumerated in this article.

1. Size Up Your Spouse

The first step to mapping out how simple or difficult your divorce process may be is to size up your spouse. You should determine if your spouse will be surprised by the filing or will he or she most likely agree and cooperate in the divorce process. If you are unsure, then you should take the position that he or she may be surprised by the filing. This is an important determination because how you size up your spouse can lead to very different legal paths.

For instance, if you hope for an “uncontested” case, it might be advantageous for you to first discuss the filing in advance with your spouse and attempt to move forward in an agreed fashion. If you feel that this would be a viable option, your case has the potential to be less costly and less emotionally damaging. However, if you feel any doubt that your spouse may not react in a calm manner, you should consider a different plan. Any spouse has the potential to become very unpredictable, when caught emotionally off guard, has anger management issues or a history of abuse whether physical or emotional. However, even the most even tempered individuals may become unhinged by the realities of a divorce. Therefore, you should make every effort to weigh how your spouse may deal with the divorce filing.

2. Identify Areas of Concern

The second step to mapping out your divorce is to identify the areas of most concern. You should identify, assess and write down each of your concerns. By committing your concerns to writing it will be easier to relay those concerns to your attorney.

Your attorney will want to know what your primary concerns are so that a solution may be crafted that best suits your needs within the context of your case. This is especially true for cases that involve any type of abuse: alcohol, drug, physical, financial or emotional. These concerns should be given adequate time and attention so that a proper road map may be developed early on in your case. Additionally, these cases are almost always contentious from the beginning. Therefore, a careful safety plan should also be coordinated between you and your attorney.

For instance, a safety plan might include a discussion about making arrangements to be in a safe location for as long as necessary after service of process is completed on your spouse. This is necessary because a spouse may become highly volatile and emotional after being served. Even in situations that may not be as volatile, a safety plan should still be discussed as high emotion can easily create instability quickly. Consequently, you should have a plan in place at least until after service on your spouse has occurred.

3. Gather Important Documents and Information

The third step to mapping out your divorce is to gather important documents and obtain relevant information before a filing. So often, clients expect attorneys to know everything about their case and to know everything about his or her life, but unfortunately this is unrealistic. Clients must be able to be a team player in the legal process of divorce and should provide all relevant documents and information in order for the attorney to give proper legal advice and in order for the client to make good legal decisions. If documents and information are missing you should let your attorney know so that your legal counsel can analyze whether the information is pertinent. If so, your attorney will take the necessary steps to help you try and obtain the documents or information. Determining what documents and information you have about your own property and finances is key to the divorce process. Some documents that you should make accessible would be the last two years of tax returns, your paycheck stubs, your health and dental insurance documentation, your retirement statements and your mortgage statements. Further, you should know your bank account information, your income and living expenses and all of your insurance information including home, auto and life. You should also have handy your pins and passwords.

4. Pinpoint Your Child’s Needs

Finally, if your divorce involves children, you should pinpoint your child’s needs and seriously consider what would be in your child’s best interests. You should be aware that a divorce is not only an extreme life change for you, it is a big life change for your child. Therefore, you should consider reaching out to your support system including your family and friends and increase contact with them as familiarity may help your children adjust.

Additionally, you should think about counseling. Children may benefit formally from counseling with a licensed professional counselor or play therapist. Oftentimes, it might be good for your child to process his or her feelings. Further, you should try and maintain regular contact with your child’s teachers at school just to make sure everything is going well. Even though children are resilient they could easily get lost in all the drama.

When you make these assessments and pinpoint those things that might be the most beneficial to your children, you should convey that information to your attorney. Your attorney will help you create a parenting plan that will be presented to the court. Remember that you are in the best position as a parent to determine what is or is not beneficial to your child.

At the end of the day, keep in mind that a carefully thought out road map of your divorce will increase the likelihood that your divorce will be resolved as soon as possible with the best possible outcomes. It will be advantageous to you and your family to be thoughtful and forward thinking instead of focusing on the past. Hopefully, you will gravitate toward an attorney and a positive support system that will help you with this goal.