Should I Separate From My Spouse Before Filing for Divorce?

Ending a marriage is not a decision that couples make lightly. Legal, financial, and logistical matters will need to be resolved, as well as complex custody and child support matters to address if the couple has children. Divorce may be the only option that makes sense. However, in some cases, one or both spouses may want to consider a trial separation to determine whether reconciliation is possible.

There are several benefits of separation, including the following:

  • May provide financial stability.
  • Time apart can provide clarity.
  • Allows you to take proactive steps to prepare for a divorce.
  • A separation can be reversed.

For some couples, a separation is simply not an option. For example, if your spouse is physically, emotionally, or financially abusive or has been having an extramarital affair, a divorce will likely be the preferred next step. There are other situations where you may want to avoid a separation and continue with a divorce, including the following:

  • There is no financial benefit to getting a legal separation, and you have no intention of reconciling with your spouse.
  • You want the option of getting remarried, which you cannot do if your previous marriage is still in place.
  • You no longer want to be responsible for making medical or financial decisions for your spouse.
  • Ultimately, you no longer want any connection with your spouse.

Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce?

There may be potential benefits to being the spouse to file for divorce. For example, you may have more control over the timing of the divorce proceedings. This will allow you to collect the necessary documentation and assess your finances. There are also legal advantages since the person who filed the divorce petition can request a standing order from the court, which prevents their spouse from making changes to retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other financial transactions. It also allows you to choose the jurisdiction to file the paperwork.

Ultimately, every divorce is unique, and while it may be in your best interest to file first, there are circumstances where it may be more advantageous if your spouse files first. Your divorce lawyer will determine the course of action in your best interest.

What Steps Should I Take Before Filing for Divorce?

If, after a trial separation, you and your spouse have decided to proceed with a divorce, you should take several steps to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible, including:

  • Organize your finances. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of your finances and how your marital property will be distributed. In addition to the assets that you own, like your marital home, vehicles, pension plans, financial accounts, and items of value, it is essential that you consider how much marital debt you have by obtaining a copy of your credit report. The debt will likely be split based on who can pay back the debt.
  • Establish your credit. You will need to credit in your name to purchase a home or a vehicle after a divorce. If you shared credit with your spouse or all of your financial documents were in your spouse’s name, it is important that you obtain a credit card that is in your name only so that you can start to establish credit as soon as possible.
  • Collect proof of income. You must provide copies of recent pay stubs and income tax returns as proof of payment. If you or your spouse are self-employed, you can provide copies of bank statements and financial business statements. A divorce lawyer can assist you with obtaining the necessary information if you can only give an estimate of your spouse’s actual income.
  • Check your joint financial accounts. In some cases, when a divorce is particularly contentious, one spouse intentionally empties out bank accounts or makes exorbitant charges on a joint credit card and refuses to pay the balance. You should look closely at any joint accounts you share with your spouse, open up a new account in your name only, and deposit half of the fund into your new account. Avoid making unnecessary or irresponsible purchases, and document all of your transactions so you have documentation of your finances during the settlement negotiations.
  • Close all joint credit accounts. Your joint credit card accounts should be paid off and closed immediately. This may prevent your spouse from running up charges that you could be responsible for paying after the divorce has been settled. If you cannot pay off the balance in full, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan with the creditor. Ensure you obtain a letter from the creditor confirming that the account has been paid in full and that no action will be taken against you.
  • Set up a post-divorce budget. Depending on the nature of your divorce settlement, you may not be able to enjoy the same standard of living as you did when you were married. You must have a clear idea of your monthly expenses to know how much you will need to support yourself and your children.
  • Always take the high road. While it can be challenging to maintain a respectful and productive relationship with your spouse, it is in your best interest to do so. Any negative or inappropriate behavior can be used against you in court and could impact the outcome of your child custody agreement. Avoid starting a new relationship, criticizing your spouse in front of your children, or engaging in questionable behavior.
  • Hire an experienced divorce lawyer. In many cases, having a skilled divorce lawyer who will protect your legal and financial interests is in your best interest.

Somerville Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Advise Clients About the Separation Process

If you are considering a divorce, do not hesitate to contact our Somerville divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We will pursue the best possible settlement outcome. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and Monmouth County.