Divorce is a complex, multifaceted, and emotionally charged experience. Regardless of the unique dynamics within your marriage, the financial issues you face, and other details of your divorce, the experience is likely to profoundly impact various aspects of your life for years to come. Whether you have filed a petition for divorce or have been blindsided by your spouse informing you they no longer wish to be married, it’s easy to feel lost and uncertain in the initial stages of divorce.

It’s vital to understand your state’s laws pertaining to divorce and what you can do to streamline your divorce proceedings. Effort early in your divorce can translate to a better outcome and the ability to approach the situation with confidence. The following best practices are valuable opportunities for anyone struggling to determine the best path forward once divorce begins.

Talk to Your Spouse

Some marriages fall apart because of specific actions, such as infidelity or domestic violence. Others slowly erode over time, and many divorcing couples reach mutual decisions to end their marriages. While some divorcing spouses may be unable to have civil conversations about anything, others are more amiable toward one another and are capable of having practical discussions. If you can do so, discussing your divorce privately with your spouse ahead of any formal proceedings can benefit both of you.

While you shouldn’t expect to reach any firm conclusions about any aspect of your divorce at this point, you can still learn each other’s most significant areas of concern and goals for the divorce. While the two of you are likely to disagree on many things, discussing them in this manner gives both of you the chance to learn what areas of your divorce are likely to be the most contentious and demanding. You may also identify issues on which both of you agree. Clearing the air before any formal steps are taken toward divorce can provide both of you with some peace of mind before a complicated process.

Secure Legal Representation

One of the most important things you must do in a divorce is secure legal representation from an attorney you can trust. Regardless of how simple or complex your divorce may seem, an experienced divorce lawyer can help you approach the situation with greater confidence and understanding. The sooner you find legal counsel, the sooner your legal team can begin working on your case. Should you require legal protection in response to domestic violence, the police can help you initially, but anyone in this situation needs to secure legal representation as swiftly as possible.

A good attorney will review the details of your divorce and help you determine the most significant areas of concern as your case unfolds. They will help you understand your options for resolving the matter, such as alternative dispute resolution that may save you time and money. Ultimately, a divorce lawyer can provide various critical legal services that make your overall experience with the divorce process much more manageable.

Gather Important Documentation

Property division will be a significant component of your divorce, and you must be prepared to submit a complete and accurate financial disclosure statement to the family court. This statement must include comprehensive financial records for all the property, assets, investments, and debts you control. Your spouse must do the same, and the court must verify these disclosure statements to check for any discrepancies.

Your attorney can assist you in gathering all of the materials you must submit in your financial disclosure statement. They will ensure you meet all filing deadlines with the court and that your case unfolds as efficiently as possible. If there are any controversies pertaining to your financial disclosure statement or that of your spouse, your attorney can help you address these problems.

Make Your Case for Custody

Divorcing parents face child custody determination in divorce proceedings. While some divorcing parents can separate their personal issues with each other from their shared responsibilities as parents and reach amicable custody and support terms, others fight bitterly over child custody. If you expect a heated custody dispute in your divorce and intend to fight for custody of your children, you must make a compelling case.

Your attorney can help you gather character references and other supporting evidence that establishes your fitness as a parent and strong bonds with your children. You may also need to prove that you can handle your kids’ everyday needs and provide them with a safe and comfortable place to live.

Know Your Legal Options for Resolving Your Divorce

You do not need to resolve your divorce in a heated courtroom exchange, though some measure of litigation may be necessary to resolve your divorce. Many divorcing couples in the United States take advantage of alternative dispute resolution to reach more agreeable terms more efficiently than litigation enables. The two most common forms of alternative dispute resolution used throughout the Midwest are collaborative divorce and mediation.

Collaborative divorce is essentially a private settlement negotiation for the dissolution of marriage. The divorcing spouses and their attorneys privately negotiate terms for their divorce order. If they cannot resolve certain issues privately, they table these for later presentation before a family court judge. Mediation is a similar process, but it unfolds under the supervision of a mediator. This third party helps the couple draft a divorce settlement, keeping negotiations focused and productive.

These alternative dispute resolution options could translate to significant savings of time and money in your divorce. Even if you can’t resolve every issue through private negotiation, you can still reach more agreeable terms to the issues you can resolve than a judge would likely deliver. Once you have exhausted all efforts to negotiate your divorce privately, you can take the remainder of the case to litigation.

Ultimately, no matter how you choose to resolve your divorce or what unique issues you might face, it is essential to have legal counsel you can trust for your divorce proceedings. As you prepare for your impending divorce, contact an experienced divorce attorney who can provide the support and guidance you need to approach the case with confidence.