For some reason, divorces nationwide tend to peak in the springtime. Perhaps it is because of the reluctance of wanting to pursue a dissolution of marriage during the holidays, or perhaps it is the realization that a spouse simply does not want to go through another summer of family vacations, family reunions and pretending that everything in the marriage is picture perfect. However, for anyone considering a divorce or legal separation, there are some important steps to consider in advance:
1. Take an inventory. If you have valuable jewelry, art work, furniture, and furnishings, take pictures and make a detailed inventory of what exists. Even if you have no concern over whether the items will disappear during the divorce, it is good to have pictures and an itemized list of the more expensive items.
2. Gather documents. Understanding your financial situation is important. Gather copies of prior tax returns, pay stubs, credit card statements, bank statements, investment accounts, employee benefits, life insurance, and trust documents. In addition, if there are deeds of trust, mortgage statements, promissory notes or any other documents indicating property owned and liabilities, be sure to obtain those as well. Put copies in a safe deposit box or at the home of a trusted friend.
3. Consider whether you need a protective order. If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to make sure you and any children are safe. Consider obtaining an order of protection that includes having your spouse stay away from your residence, away from your place of employment, or other places you may frequent.
4. Determine if other alternatives exist. Determining the reason you are considering a divorce is important. Can you achieve the same results with a legal separation, post-nuptial agreement, or creating a trust? Are there sufficient difficulties in the marriage that may be helped with marriage counseling? Consulting with an attorney that understands the options available may help you determine whether there is an ability to repair the marriage.
5. Choose an attorney who understands your goals and priorities. The relationship with your lawyer should be a partnership in pursuing what is most important to you. The counsel of your attorney may affect your life for years to come. This may require interviewing more than one attorney to determine the right choice for you and your family. You will never regret taking the time to find the right lawyer.
About the Author:
Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office. Marlene is a certified specialist in family law. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law including dissolution, post-dissolution, paternity, child custody and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She is a member of the State Bar’s Family Law Practice and Procedure Committee and is a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family law. She has extensive trial and appellate experience including appearing before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ms. Pontrelli has written several books, including as a co-author of the Divorce in Arizona book. She is a frequent lecturer in the area of family law and has conducted workshops throughout the country. Ms. Pontrelli is also an adjunct professor at The Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University, where she teaches the family law class. Marlene may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5081.