Deciding to Divorce: An Important Checklist

The decision to file for divorce can be profoundly difficult, even when you believe it’s the right course of action. However once you have made that decision and initiated the process, a tremendous amount of change will likely occur in a very short period of time. Be prepared for emotional swings, as well as logistical, financial and physical challenges that will follow. This general checklist will help you maintain, or if necessary, regain a sense of control:

  1. Retain a Qualified Divorce and Family Law Attorney

The earlier you engage an experienced lawyer, the better. Be sure to choose one with a background in family or divorce law. Interview potential candidates to find someone you’re comfortable with. Keep in mind that your attorney is there to protect your legal rights only. If you need support from a mental health counselor, financial planner or other professionals, it may be necessary to engage them as well.

  1. Gather Key Paperwork

Get all the necessary forms for filing for divorce. Review each item carefully, and make sure you have all necessary supporting documentation. Be sure you meet the residency requirements for the county in which you plan on filing for divorce. Your attorney can help with this legal issues.

  1. Get Your Finances in Order

Though this might not be priority on the first day, you will likely need to address these matters sooner than later. Again, speak to your attorney about what can be expected. It’s not uncommon for the courts to freeze joint assets to keep couples from spending or taking excess money out of the bank. Divorces usually require the submission of lots of paperwork, including: W2s, paystubs, tax returns, life insurance policies, retirement plans, and account statements. Gather copies of all this documentation, but also consider opening a separate checking account for your future earnings.

  1. Write Down All Your Thoughts about the Divorce

One of the biggest reasons people stress out during big life changes is that events like divorce force us to recalibrate and renegotiate so many commitments. We make agreements with other people. We make agreements with ourselves. To keep from being overwhelmed, consider keeping a private journal or timeline of events. This may help organize your thoughts and concerns.

Since the first 24 hours following your decision to divorce are crucial. The best advice is to be prepared. Collect your thoughts and key paperwork.

Stephen J. Riebling, Jr. and Marcia Payton are divorce and family law attorneys at Riebling & Payton, PLLC, located in Westchester County, NY. To learn more about them, the firm and their approach please visit Riebling & Payton, PLLC at

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