No one wants to imagine that a once perfect marriage could end in divorce, but that reality happens to millions every year. For many, it comes a surprise when they suddenly receive divorce papers or their spouse moves out without notice.
What are you supposed to do with this shocking revelation? While it might feel overwhelming, preparing for your future court date now is the best course of action. Here’s what you should do when your spouse surprises you with a divorce.
Step 1: Gather Yourself
After the initial shock wears off, it’s time to regain your composure. One of the worst things you can do is succumb to your anger or frustration. Acting on impulse can lead to a reaction of rage in the form of a call or text messages, which the court will see as the reasoning behind the divorce.
Imagine that you just found out your spouse had an affair on top of wanting a divorce. Naturally, you want their infidelity to be the reasoning behind the separation and use that as leverage to during trial. If you respond with anger, you could tip the case in your spouse’s favor. Reactions like these can also lead the court to order unnecessary counseling, restraining orders, or loss of custody.
Step 2: Organize Your Case
While you life may feel as though its spiraling out of control, now is the time to counteract that feeling with a little organization. The key to being successful in court is preparation. So, find yourself an attorney as quickly as possible and begin preparing for your day in court.
You should consider exactly what you need from your legal counsel, as well. You might need someone familiar with different legal areas surrounding divorce such as QDRO (domestic relations order) or an attorney who can help you with any challenges you’ll face in court. Here are some examples:
- Custody battles if you have children
- Separating your finances to protect your investments and assets
- An interpreter for any hearing or speech disabilities
- A bilingual family law attorney if English isn’t your first language
- A lawyer skilled in domestic violence suits if necessary
Step 3: Attempt Mediation
While you might be angry, you and your now-ex spouse would both benefit from mediation as opposed to a costly trial. If you’re both willing to sit down with a third-party mediator and end this relationship on more favorable terms, then it’s worth the attempt.
Keep in mind that you will end up spending more money if mediation doesn’t work. So, don’t attempt this route if you know your spouse isn’t going to cooperate. The best thing to do is have your lawyer speak to theirs about it, then talk with your lawyer about whether or not this path is in your best interest.
Step 4: Follow Your Lawyer’s Advice
It might be tempting to start closing off your spouse’s access to bank account, change the locks, or take other actions to protect yourself. Don’t give into the temptation, though. The best thing you can do is speak with your attorney about these actions first. They can advise on your legal rights as well as what might hurt your chances in court.