Family law attorneys typically see an increase in January of individuals calling to set a divorce consultation. Often times the requests for consultations are precipitated by the desire to not have to spend another uncomfortable holiday season with your spouse. Or perhaps it is because the new year is a good time to take stock of your life, and determine what path is best for you. However, before rushing off to file a petition for dissolution of your marriage, consider the following:

  1. Understand your finances. Before meeting with your attorney, gather copies of documents that show your household income and monthly expenses. These documents include credit card statements, tax returns, pay stubs, bank account statements, and mortgage statements. Understanding your household income and the expenses that are incurred each month will help you and your attorney understand your financial future should you file for divorce.
  2. Determine your ultimate goal. Sometimes there is an event that triggers the desire for a divorce. Consider whether the goal is to change the behavior of your spouse (perhaps there are issues of alcoholism, gambling, or infidelity), or you want to have more financial control, or perhaps there is a need for a financial separation to avoid future liability. There may be alternatives that you can discuss with your lawyer that are short of filing for a divorce, such as a post-nuptial agreement, or legal separation.
  3. If you have minor children, determine how best to navigate parenting time and legal decision-making in a two parent household. Giving some thought to the ideal custody plan is helpful in discussing potential custody plans with your attorney during the consultation.
  4. Decide how household expenses and living arrangements will be handled during the pendency of the divorce. There is usually considerable time (60 days at a minimum) between the filing for divorce and the ultimate divorce decree. Accordingly, knowing whether you will be living with your spouse in the same house, whether you will continue to share marital expense and income, and whether you will start to share parenting time duties are important considerations.
  5. Take your time. This is an important decision. While you likely have been considering the possibility for filing for divorce for some time, this is still an important step and one that will determine the rest of your life. You may find it helpful to have consultations with several attorneys in order to find the one who you feel comfortable with helping you navigate the legal process and providing you solid legal advice.

About the Author:

Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office and co-chair of the firm’s Family Law Practice. 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 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.