Preparing for Divorce in 2024

January is the month of New Year’s resolutions and a time when many people are looking for ways to renew their lives. For some, a fresh start includes moving forward with a divorce. Some people decide during the year that divorce is inevitable but wait for the close of the holiday season to finally make a move. Others see the writing on the wall after spending extended time together over the holidays. Whatever it is that has convinced you that this is the time, make sure you are truly ready before you file divorce papers. Here are a few steps to take first:

Collect Financial Information

Many people contemplating divorce underestimate how much financial information they will need to move forward. Even before you consult with an attorney, it is a good idea to pull together as much as you possibly can. Here are some of the things you are likely to need:

  • A summary of your current employment status and your employment history for the past several years.
  • If you are unemployed or plan to change your employment situation soon, an explanation of the reasons for this and information about any relevant training or education.
  • Tax returns for the past three years, including W-2s and/or 1099’s.
  • Complete financial Information pertaining to any businesses either or both of you own or operate.
  • If you are an employee, paystubs for the past three months.
  • A detailed monthly budget of your living expenses.
  • Information about all insurance coverages you carry (medical, life, auto, etc.) and the cost of each policy.
  • Copies of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements you may have.
  • Evidence of any child or spousal support payments that either you or your spouse are currently paying or receiving from previous relationships.
  • A complete list of your marital and separate assets and debts, including dates of acquisition, forms of title, and sources of funds.
Examples of Assets:
  • Family Home
  • Other real estate
  • Automobiles and other vehicles
  • Personal property (furniture, artwork, etc.)
  • Bank accounts
  • Brokerage accounts (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.)
  • Business interests
  • Retirement accounts (pensions, IRAs, 401Ks, etc.)
Examples of Debts:
  • Mortgages and home equity loans
  • Secured loans (e.g., car loans)
  • Credit card debt and balances on unsecured lines of credit
  • Other personal loans

For a more detailed look at what you will need, see: How to Prepare for Mediation – a Checklist.

If you are not yet sure that mediation will be a good option for you, follow this checklist anyway. You will need the same information to start your divorce regardless of whether you start out in mediation or in court.

Think about a Parenting Plan

If you and your spouse have minor children together, things will be much easier if you can agree on a parenting plan. Coming up with the best plan for your children requires thinking about their ages, their schedules, and any special needs. If a child has a medical condition or another type of special need that requires unique care or financial support, collect documentation of this. For detailed information on parenting plans, see: New Jersey Parenting Time Plans.

Consult with an Attorney

It is generally best to have a consultation with a family law attorney sooner rather than later. Better yet, consult with two or three attorneys to be sure that you feel comfortable with the responses you get. An initial consultation can provide you with valuable information about what you can expect, what the best timing may be, and whether or not you are a good candidate for divorce mediation. As noted above, you will get more out of a consultation if you first take the time to collect your financial and personal information. You don’t need to have all the documents together yet, but you should at least know what the documents will show and have a written checklist of all your assets and debts.

Communicate with your Spouse

It might seem odd that we have placed this critical move so far down the list. Many people will have discussed divorce with their spouse already before taking steps like collecting information or consulting an attorney. It generally makes sense, however, to at least have some idea of where things stand financially and legally before you make a serious pitch to your spouse that the best thing for both of you to do is to get a divorce. Eventually, of course, you can only move forward with your spouse’s knowledge. There are two people in every marriage, and two people in every divorce. Your spouse does not, however, have to agree with you that divorce is the best answer.

If you have not yet told your spouse that you want a divorce, ask yourself, why not? Are you afraid of your spouse’s reaction? Do you anticipate anger, sadness, or something else? Are you not quite sure that you have done everything possible to save the relationship? If the latter possibility is nagging at you, you may want to suggest couples counseling first before you bring up divorce.

Consider Divorce Mediation

Whether or not divorce mediation can work depends in part on your spouse’s response to the idea and in part on the feedback you have received from your attorney consultations. You can also find a plethora of information on this website about when and for whom divorce mediation is suitable. You can start here with our FAQ page.

For more information about divorce mediation and its suitability for you and your spouse, contact one of our experienced and compassionate divorce mediators.