Here is a checklist of things you need to collect so you’ll understand your own (and your spouse’s) financial situation.

  1. Personal and business income tax returns for the last three to five years. Proof of your current income and of your spouse’s current income.

  2. Bank and investment statements.

  3. Savings, checking, money market, CDs, from financial consultants, and any others IRA, SEP, 401k, and other retirement-plan or pension statements. All your Insurance policies. Trusts, wills, living will Power of attorney. Stock option statements.

  1. Mortgage statements. Credit card statements. Property tax statements. All loan documents.

  2. Utility bills and other bills. Appraisal documents for all valuable personal property. Inventory of personal property, with photos of anything of particular value. Compilation of major property or valuables owned before you were married. Documentation of the contents of your safe-deposit box and any other debts.

A few Terms you’ll need to know. Answers to basic questions.

Legal separation: Some states require spouses to live apart – usually for a year – before the marriage is eligible to end in divorce.

An annulment. That says a marriage never really happened. In such a case the marriage is considered invalid since the beginning. They are rare and usually only for bigamy, incest, for an underage bride or groom, or for one of the two being mentally impaired.

How long does a divorce take? Depends. The process will go more quickly, the more the two parties can agree on the division of assets before beginning the divorce. Some states require that you and your wife live apart for one year before filing for divorce. It can also depend on how many cases are backlogged in your county.

Will it be faster on the internet? The forms you’d fill out would be pretty much the same as for a dissolution. And, as above, both spouses must be in complete agreement.

What will it cost? That is hard to call as it varies with many factors. You should ask a lawyer right up front what you can expect to pay, if s/he doesn’t offer that information. If you need to hire attorneys for child custody or division of property, you are looking at a significant price hike.

What if I’m not an income earner? If you are completely the supported spouse with no income of your own, with no savings of your own, you are at a disadvantage. Bills that can run up quickly include attorneys’ fees, therapy bills for you and kids, court costs, rent, and living expenses. If you are thinking about divorce, but haven’t broached the subject with her, start putting away whatever money you can. And FIND A JOB. Although you could end up with a significant part of your spouse’s assets and with child support and alimony, in the meantime you need to support yourself.

Most states require property owned during the marriage be split up. So you and your ex may have to sell the house.

It is important to be educated on divorce, so you can speak intelligently to your attorney.  The first thing to know is that divorce laws in no two states are the same. There are some more new terms in your vocabulary. Don’t look for all of them to make sense. I’ve included websites to help you with this education.

Residence Requirement: You may be required to file for divorce in the county you live in, not the one you got married in. Many require you to live in that county or parish for a specific amount of time. You can get this information from your county website, or your attorney or mediator.

Grounds for Divorce: or what is legally acceptable for the marriage to end. This book will give you the state by state guide in the back to explain the specifics, but grounds usually include things like abandonment, cruel and inhuman treatment, one spouse refuses to have sex, adultery, irreconcilable differences.

Before you start downloading emails or phone records check with your attorney to be sure you are obtaining those within the law.

An uncontested divorce means you and your spouse agree on all the basics: child support, dividing property, and spousal support. Agreement on these will mean a much quicker process.

A contested divorce is one in which you can’t agree on at least one issue.

The actual process of divorce starts with a petition. One spouse (or an attorney) writes or fills out a document and serves it to the other. The writer or server is the petitioner. The receiver is the respondent. You don’t have to hire a professional server unless the respondent tries to dodge or refuses to sign. Once the respondent signs your waiting period begins, which again varies from state to state, but in all states a signed petition means some of the same things.

If your marriage is ending due to domestic violence, the abused needs to file for an emergency protective order (EPO) or a temporary restraining order. Either of those will keep the abusive spouse from contacting the victim, damaging or entering the abused’s property, or approaching the abused or their children. Since such an order will last only a few days you will have need for a permanent protective order.

Every state has a website for its courts. There you will find the requirements for divorce in that state. If you don’t know where to look, go to DivorceSupport.com. That will link you into every state’s information. An average waiting period for a divorce is six months.

It’s important to know whether your state follows equitable distribution laws or community property laws.

Equitable Distribution: divides up the property in as fair a manner as possible. All but nine states use this method. The rest are community property states.

Community-property is the view that assets earned by both are owned by both. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin are community–property states. That means if you live in one of those states you can expect to divide everything evenly, even if you are the lower earning spouse. The catch is that you and your spouse are equally responsible for all debts.

If you are still reeling from surprise and your spouse comes to you with a starter agreement that is supposed to make everything better. Don’t sign. Talk to an attorney as you may later regret signing something as you may be upset so early in the process.

Don’t move out right away. Especially when you have children living at home. Moving out and leaving the children could mean you will have a tougher custody battle later. Conversely, if you moved out and took the kids, you could be arrested for kidnapping. So don’t make this mistake.

Alimony decoded (or spousal support) as the courts usually call it. Here are the type of things which could potentially get you alimony and which you should discuss with your mediator or attorney.

  1. You’re a full time at home dad who has never worked outside the home.

  2. You’ve been financially dependent for many years.

  3. While she earned a college degree, you financed her or the whole family.

  4. Don’t assume that because you are a man you will not be eligible for alimony. If she has the larger income, and you have full time child responsibilities as a stay at home dad, it is likely you’ll receive spousal support.

Spousal support takes several forms.

  • Permanent alimony continues monthly until the receiver remarries or enters a long-term live in relationship. This usually applies to someone who never held a job outside the home or for another reason, like a disability, does not have earning power.

  • Temporary alimony is set for months or years, after which time the recipient is expected to get a job.

Recommendation: Negotiate a Settlement Agreement if at all possible. Whether the process is amicable or contentious.

Sorry, but don’t expect to get rich in a divorce settlement. Please look at it as a chance to protect your children’s interests and your own.

NO MATTER HOW YOU ARE TEMPTED TO SLAM HER, WORK HARD TO STAY OUT OF COURT.

Mistake: My way or the highway type negotiation.

Also Mistake: Rolling over and playing dead.

It will just cost you a hefty amount, make lawyers wealthy, and alienate your children. Is any of that worth it? DIVORCE MEDIATION WORKS. It is your best avenue, and the one good attorneys will recommend. Don’t be vengeful even if she was cheating on you with your best friend.

Is the lesson that you need to choose women and guy friends better? Obviously.

Why would she be angry enough to slap you in the face like that?

Honestly what was your part?

  • Were you unfaithful?

  • Were you workaholic, alcoholic, or some other version of unavailable?

  • Had you lost interest in sex, or at least with her?

  • Did you resist couple counseling when she pushed for it?

BUT YOU WILL NEED A GOOD ATTORNEY.

Too many attorneys are just running emotionally devastated people through like cattle. You’ve got to find one you can connect with. Settle on one like my friend who wrote the introduction to this book. Talk to plenty of friends or acquaintances. Many guys hope things won’t get angry or litigious. You don’t want somebody who will pick unnecessary fights, but you need a realist who’ll look after you first, NOT your ex. That is her attorney’s job.

And I don’t often recommend attorneys who haven’t been through a divorce him/herself. This is also a world where often you get what you pay for, so be prepared to cough up some dough.

To get the right attorney you might even want to go to your family for a loan if need be – seriously. I am not big on loans, but this could be a time since your financial future could depend in some part on this settlement. Get your attorney to recommend a responsible and understanding financial counselor, man or woman. Again, the most helpful ones will have probably been through a divorce, and there are plenty of those out there.

But what if she really is a bitch? OK, but she is your bitch. Nobody made you marry her. We are back to why you need a good attorney. If she isn’t willing to use a collaborative one, you’ll need one who can win: period, amen.

A couple of years ago, somebody sent me a picture of a really perfect naked woman. The caption read, No matter how good she looks, some guy is tired of taking her shit. So if you’d been ready to learn whatever you need to this time you would have. Go ahead and curse me.

So go ahead and lick your wounds, take some time. Just don’t close down. There are plenty who aren’t bitches. That I promise you, even if you can’t see that clearly today.

Guys think their attorneys can be their support system – wrong. Even the best attorneys don’t have the time or the training to give you enough active support you’ll need to get through this rough passage. That is why we have discussed earlier which friends you’ll need, and a men’s group, or best a separation/support group for men.

Many guys are surprised, and glad, to discover that the custody of their kids is not automatically awarded to their ex.

You also need to know your ex won’t automatically be mean and spiteful. Many of today’s women are genuinely sad that things didn’t work out.

Even if the marriage blew up because you had an affair, you don’t need to live in guilt or shame – affairs have a voice.

What was the voice in your affair, that you weren’t willing to say to your wife, or she wasn’t listening? ________________________________________________________________________________________________

RESOURCES:

Temporary Orders in Family Court: Quick Decisions on Support and Custody

http:// www.nolo.com/ legal-encyclopedia/ temporary-orders-family-court-29642. html

Child Support in a Divorce,” LegalZoom.com , accessed February 3, 2014,

http:// www.legalzoom.com/ divorce-guide/ divorce-child-support.html .

AhaParenting.com, accessed January 15, 2014,

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/family-life/divorce-protecting-kids

Kristen Wynns, “Dealing with Divorce: 10 Tips to Protect Your Kids,”

http://wynnsfamilypsychology.com/DealingwithDivorce10TipstoProtectYourKids/tabid/760/language/en-US/Default.aspx

My husband and I never considered divorce…murder sometimes, but never divorce.

              Dr. Joyce Brothers