The “D” word is a scary one. However, when considering the idea of a divorce, whether you are unhappy in your marriage, or your spouse has informed you that he or she is, giving into the urge to hide under the covers is a really, really bad idea. Knowledge is the fuel you need to power through this process—from the “I am thinking about it” stage to the “OMG I was just served divorce papers” stage.

The first thing that needs to be attended to is compiling the information that your attorney is going to need in order to represent your interests. This information will include (but depending on any individual case, not be limited to) the following:

  1. Bank Account Balances
  2. Investment Account Balances
  3. Inventory of any stocks, bonds, mutual funds
  4. Value of any personal property
  5. Value of any real property that is owned, including vacation property
  6. Balance of any mortgages or home equity loans
  7. Values of any vehicles, boats, etc.
  8. Balances of any loans against any vehicles, boats, etc.
  9. Balances of any credit cards and any other debts
  10. Retirement account information
  11. Monthly expenses, which includes shelter and transportation costs as well as monthly personal expenses for the family.
  12. If either party owns a business, your lawyer will ask you for information about the business to assist in determining its value
  13. Information about each party’s earning history and capacity

If you are in the “just thinking about it” stage, you should speak to an attorney. The laws involving divorce are complex, and it is important to understand how your actions could affect your future rights. You need to understand this ahead of time, and take steps to protect your assets. Also, do not move out of the house without first talking to a lawyer, particularly if you have any children. The process of a divorce can take a long time, and being out of the house may affect your rights.

When children are involved, there are parenting time and custody issues that have to be considered. New Jersey law has some presumptions about custody of children and it is important for parents to have information before making any decisions, or giving any commitments to the other parent.

The legal process of getting divorced can seem overwhelming to many. There are many court forms that have to be completed, there are court appearances, and there is a specific process in order to ask a judge to do something in your case. Having an understanding of this will make all the difference.

There is more than one way to get to the finish line, and the courts have methods of alternative dispute resolution available, including mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law. Getting information about these is important so you know all the tools you have to make the process the least painful for your family.