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Ask Jennifer: Before You Get Divorced

Dear Jennifer,

I’ve been thinking about getting a divorce for some time but I want to make sure I cover my bases before I file. Is there anything I should be doing before I serve him papers? Been together 12 years, no children.

A planner in Pelham


Dear planner,

Here are five things I think everyone should do before filing.

1. Figure out your basic finances: Get documentation that shows how much you and your spouse make. This could be through check stubs or by getting a copy of your taxes.  Document all your liabilities and bills. After you have this in hand, figure out what it takes to run your life now and then work from there to figure out a post-divorce budget.

2. Make a list of what your assets are: Make a list showing everything you own jointly as well as everything you brought into the marriage. Don’t forget to include retirement or pension plans, artwork, valuable collectibles, etc.

3. Make three “wish” lists: Now that you know where you stand financially, what you owe, and what you own, clear your head and rationally make three wish lists. The first list should be your absolute best case settlement scenario, keeping in mind that it must still be reasonable or you are setting yourself up for a letdown. The second list should be the absolute minimum you would accept and still be ok with your divorce settlement. The third list is exactly like the first list except you reorganize the items from most important starting at the top of the page to least important at the bottom. Make a copy for yourself and your attorney. This gives your attorney a clear direction of what you are looking to accomplish, and it will also save you time and money as it will cut out some of the back and forth that would be needed to figure out exactly what you are wanting. Lastly, the list serves as a personal reminder of what you were looking to accomplish in your case before the emotions of divorce may have had time to cloud your judgment.

4. Take care of yourself: Even the most amicable divorce is stressful and you need an outlet to release some of that stress. Whether your stress buster is time at the gym, running, massage, or even talking it out with a friend, you need to make sure to get started early and keep it up throughout and even after the conclusion of your case. I also highly recommend seeking out a therapist to talk to for short and long term support while you readjust to your new normal.

5. Hire the right attorney: Make sure you find someone who is experienced in handling cases like yours, someone who you can talk to, and someone who understands your goals. There’s nothing wrong with interviewing multiple attorneys to find someone you feel comfortable with. Ideally, you want someone who will try to work out a great settlement if possible but also someone who is not afraid to go to court. While I don’t believe you have to hire the most expensive attorney you can find, I’d caution against hiring a very cheap one. Attorneys set their own rates, and an attorney with an extremely low price is indicating how much they and the public value their service.

Hope this helps,


Attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, Jennifer Rose, answers readers’ questions about family and matrimonial law.

Jennifer G. Rose is the founder and lead attorney at The Rose Law Firm LLC. One of only a handful of certified family law specialists in the state, Jennifer and her firm have won dozens of awards for their work in the field. Those wishing to reach her may call 205-323-1124, 24 hours a day or visit Her firm gives complimentary initial consultations in person.

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