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21 Things to Do Before Asking for a Divorce

9. Learn How Much It Costs to Run Your Household

Whether you plan to stay in the house or leave, you won't know how much money you need unless you know the monthly costs of running your household. If you pay the monthly bills, your job is easy. If you don't, look through the family computer files (if you pay online) or the checkbook—see how much you pay in monthly rent or on your mortgage; check utilities, including electricity, heat, and phone; and look at sundry costs from snow plowing in winter to lawn care and gardening in spring.

One woman we know, a well-educated social worker with a full-time career, didn't know the first thing about the family's monthly expenses because her husband's secretary made out the checks and paid the bills from the office. She was embarrassed to confess her “ignorance,” but she is hardly alone. The point is, even if this woman hadn't been contemplating divorce, every adult should know these basic details.

10. Determine Where You Will Live Following Separation

If you're the spouse who plans to move out, decide where you're going to live and figure out how much it will cost, month-by-month, beforehand. Maybe you plan to move in with your romantic interest. Although that might be tempting—it might be the reason you want to divorce—it might also be a case of going from the frying pan into the fire. How is your spouse going to react when you want to bring the children there? Will this make your case a thousand times more difficult to settle? Will your spouse have an adultery claim that can hurt you later? If you answered any of these questions with a “yes” or an “I don't know,” move somewhere else. Look through the real estate advertisements to learn about rents. Consider what it will cost to move, and calculate start-up expenses, including telephone installation and turning on electricity and cable.

11. Start Saving Money

One unemployed wife of an electrician wanted a divorce immediately. Her friend, a paralegal who worked in a law firm specializing in divorce, convinced her to hold off for a while. Instead, the friend advised her, it would be best to wait a solid year before starting the divorce action. During that time, she was instructed to save money—enough, hopefully, to be able to pay the rent for a place of her own after she asked for a divorce. It wasn't easy, but the wife saved enough to move out and pay rent for a year. As it turned out, the judge ordered the husband to pay her monthly rent until the divorce was final; but without the initial savings, she wouldn't have been able to move out in the first place.

12. Build Up Your Own Credit

If you don't have credit cards in your own name, apply for them now. You might be able to get them based on your spouse's income, and you will probably need credit later. Use the cards instead of cash and pay the entire balance by the due date every month. Don't charge more than you can pay; you'll be creating even more problems for yourself!

You Can Do It!

With a major disruption imminent, your kids will need the reassurance of your extra attention. Fear of abandonment by one or both parents is the number-one reaction of children faced with divorcing parents. On the legal front, the more involved you are with your kids now, the more chance you will have to stay involved—by court order, if necessary.

13. Stay Involved with Your Children

First of all, this is important for your children—especially because they will need all the support and reassurance they can get during the turbulent times ahead. In addition, because courts consider the depth and quality of your relationship when making custody and parenting time decisions, such involvement now could translate to more time with your children and the likelihood of shared custody after the divorce.

Do a self-check: Have you been so busy earning a living that you've let your spouse bear the brunt of child rearing? If so, now is the time to reallocate your priorities. If you have school-age children, help get them off to school in the morning, help them with homework at night, and help get them to bed. Learn who their teachers are, who their pediatrician is, who their friends are. If your children are not yet in school, spend as much time with them as you can before and after work. Be an involved parent—for now and for your future together.

Next: Pulling out >>

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Surviving Divorce © 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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