Coming to the conclusion that a relationship needs to end is an extremely difficult one. It usually takes months, or even years, for a person to get to that point; and by then, you’re so overcome with raw emotion that just making the decision can almost seem like a weight being lifted off of you and you want to charge forward, to get on with your life. The question becomes, how do you do that? What steps do you need to take to actually move forward?
The first step is to do your research. Do you need the court’s assistance to end your relationship or can you just walk away? If you’re married, do you want to get divorced or do you just want to become separated? If you are getting divorced, how do you want to go about it? Do you think you and your spouse can work with a mediator or try a collaborative divorce process; or do you think you are going to have to file for divorce with the court and pursue litigation? If you’re not married, but have children together, are you going to need to set up an arrangement for parenting time and child support?
Once you’ve decided on what your next step will be, you need to get ready to take it. The most basic thing you can do to help yourself is gather your information. After all, how are you going to have an intelligent conversation about finances if you don’t know what the finances are? Go online and print out copies of your bank account statements for the past six (6) months. If you don’t know the password, and can’t find the original statements, go to the bank and ask them to print them out for you. Do the same for your credit cards. These two sources of information will give you a good idea what your true monthly expenses are and what your monthly income is. They will also give you an idea if there are other accounts or lines of credit open you might not have been aware of. For example, there are payments to a credit card you never knew about or references to transfers from other accounts you were unaware of. You should also find copies of your last 2 years of tax returns and any statements from investment or retirement accounts. If you cannot locate these documents, do not panic, they are not critical; but they would be helpful to any attorney you plan to speak to.
In addition to collecting your information you should also start to create a security buffer for yourself in case you find yourself cut off financially. If you do not already have it, you should obtain a credit card in your own name. While in most cases it is not necessary it never hurts to have a source of emergency funds should the need arise. You should also open an account with a bank that is just in your name and at a different bank. While I am not suggesting you start trying to funds or hide money, again it doesn’t hurt to have an open account in your individual name. Also, keep in mind that regardless of who’s name is on a lease or a deed, you cannot be kicked out.
Your final step should be to ask for help. More specifically, speak to an attorney who specializes in the field and who practices in the county. You should also speak to more than one attorney. Like any important decision, you would want to have more than one opinion to base your decision on. You need to pick an attorney you feel comfortable with and who you feel matches you goals and style for how to get there. You should also consider contacting the Women’s Center at County College of Morris to speak to one of their volunteer attorneys or to take advantage of the numerous workshops.
While taking these steps are not required to move forward with ending your relationship, each step you take will go a long way towards providing you with financial and emotional security while you go through the process.
Shauger & Friedland, LLC. 248 Columbia Turnpike, Bldg 2, Florham Park ; Additional information about Ms. Friedland and the content of this article can be found at www.friedlandfamilylaw.com.