Divorce Planning Checklist: What You Need To Know (2022)

No matter how long you and your spouse have been together, a divorce can be draining—both emotionally and financially. It can be especially difficult if you're unprepared or disorganized. To make the transition as smooth as possible, we've put together a divorce planning checklist to help you navigate the process.


  • The average cost of getting a divorce in 2019 was $12,780, which included $11,300 in attorney's fees and about $1,480 in other expenses.
  • On average, it takes 12 months to complete a divorce, from filing a petition to getting a final court judgment. If the case goes to trial, the average time is about 18 months.
  • Divorce is never easy but being prepared can help make the transition as smooth as possible.
  • An experienced family law attorney can explain your rights and responsibilities and help you navigate the divorce process.

Discuss the Divorce

If you haven't talked with your spouse about divorce yet, decide when, where, and how to broach the subject. Try to pick a date that doesn't coincide with a major holiday, an anniversary, a child's birthday, or an important event. Then choose a time that will give both of you a chance to talk, think, reflect, and rest before work or other obligations arise. If possible, plan to have the conversation in a neutral place—out of the home and away from domestic triggers and distractions. Keep it simple, try to remain calm, and avoid saying more than you need to.

(Video) Divorce Prep Checklist Tutorial

Get Support

Any divorce—even the amicable ones—can get messy and complicated. Put together a group of trusted friends and family members who will be there to listen and lend a hand. It's also a good idea to meet with a therapist, especially if you're coping with any trauma, such as domestic or substance abuse. And if you feel like you could use help making financial decisions, set up an appointment to speak with a financial planner or a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) to advise you.

Hire an Attorney

Even if your divorce will be amicable, it's best to hire an attorney who will help you understand your rights and responsibilities—and ensure you follow the appropriate steps. That way, you can make educated decisions about your (and your children's, if you have them) future. Seek out recommendations from family and friends and research several family law attorneys in your area to find a good lawyer. Be sure to interview a few candidates so you can find the one with whom you will be most comfortable.

Sort out the Separation Details

Some couples live together until the divorce is final, but usually, one spouse or the other moves out before that time. Decide where you, your partner, and your children will live. Keep in mind that maintaining two separate homes is expensive. Both you and your soon-to-be-ex should aim to spend no more than 25% of your respective take-home pay on rent or mortgage costs. Be sure to create a realistic budget that reflects the new living arrangements and ensures both households are safe.

Make Plans for the Children

All divorces follow the same general process, but extra steps and considerations apply when children are involved. If you have kids, plan to meet with a local family law attorney to discuss where the kids will live (physical custody), visitation schedules, child support, and who will be involved in significant decisions related to the children (legal custody). You will also have to sort out who the kids will spend holidays, birthdays, and vacations with, as well as how you'll handle visits with extended family and friends.

Itemize Your Belongings

Part of divorce is figuring out who gets what. A good place to start is to make a list (and take photos) of personal items that belong only to you, such as artwork, jewelry, family heirlooms, or photos and papers that have special meaning to you. If necessary, give these items to a trusted family member or friend for safekeeping.

(Video) 11 Things You Should Know Before filing for Divorce

You should also make a list of properties you own jointly with your spouse. Try to include each item's value and gather relevant paperwork (such as your vehicle's registration and title). Be sure to include real estate, vehicles, machinery, household items, personal items, and pets.

Compile Your Legal Documents

It's essential to have your financial paperwork organized and in one place, such as a file or binder. Start by collecting and making copies of your legal documents, including:

  • Marriage documents: agreements (e.g., prenuptial or postnuptial) and marriage license
  • Tax returns: federal and state tax returns for the past five years
  • Real estate: deeds, appraisals, cost basis of home, mortgages, rental property records
  • Business documents: receipts, tax returns, payroll information, and any registrations, patents, or trademarks
  • End-of-life plans: will, power of attorney, advance healthcare directive

If you have trouble finding any documents (or your spouse is making it difficult), your attorney can help. You will also need to update your insurance policies (so you aren't financially responsible for your ex), will, and powers of attorney.

Organize Your Financial Paperwork

Next, make copies of your financial statements (e.g., bank, investment, retirement accounts, health savings accounts (HSAs), and credit cards), insurance documents (homeowners, auto, life, personal liability), and loans (mortgage, car, home equity, and personal loans). Have your paperwork available in paper and digital format so it's easy to access wherever you are—and be sure to keep it all in a secure place.

Rent a P.O. Box

Many bills and documents are sent electronically these days. However, if you plan to change your house after the divorce, set up a post office box now to ensure you don't miss any important paperwork (remember to forward your mail to the new address).

(Video) Divorce Planning Checklist: Should do and Should Not.

Change Your Passwords

Change your passwords on all your accounts, including email, banking, and credit cards. Since your spouse may know your passwords (or be able to guess), this helps ensure your privacy and that you will continue to have access to your personal accounts.

Protect Your Credit

Filing for divorce won't impact your credit score directly, but your score could take a hit if you have late or missed payments because of the divorce. Keep in mind that if you live in a community property state, you and your spouse are equally responsible for any debts acquired while you were married.

Even if a divorce decree gives your former spouse responsibility for a joint account, lenders and creditors can still come after you. To protect your credit, open new accounts in your name once you are separated. It's also a good idea to buy identity theft protection—a divorce makes you susceptible to scams by fraudsters or even your ex.

The Bottom Line

Divorce is never easy, but you can help ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible if you stay organized, hire a competent attorney, and assemble a support team of friends and family.

Divorce laws vary by state for matters such as process-serving requirements, waiting periods, and grounds for getting a no-fault divorce. Be mindful that even though your friend in a neighboring state had a quick and easy divorce, you may have a different experience due to your state's laws. Finally, keep in mind that every divorce is different and this checklist serves as a reference only—not a definitive guide.

(Video) Divorce Planning Checklist

How Long Does a Divorce Take?

According to a survey conducted by legal website Lawyers.com, the average time it takes to complete a divorce, from filing a petition to getting a final court judgment, is about 12 months. For cases that go to trial, the average time is closer to 18 months.

What Are the Legal Reasons for Divorce?

The reasons vary by state and whether it's an at-fault or a no-fault divorce. The legal grounds to file for an at-fault divorce include adultery, abandonment, impotence, infertility, criminal conviction, emotional or physical abuse, substance abuse, and mental illness. The reasons for a no-fault divorce include irreconcilable differences, incompatibility, and irretrievable breakdowns.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost?

According to a survey conducted by legal website Nolo, the average cost of divorce in 2019 was $12,780, including $11,300 in attorney's fees and about $1,480 in court costs, as well as fees for real estate appraisers, tax advisors, and other experts. However, the survey median of $7,000 is a more typical cost, given that expensive divorces can skew the average costs higher.

(Video) 5 Things To Do Before Filing For Divorce


What should I do before I tell my spouse I want a divorce? ›

Be prepared, know what you want to say, and give your spouse some warning about what's coming.
  1. Don't Ambush Your Spouse. ...
  2. Pick a Private Place. ...
  3. Be Prepared for Anger. ...
  4. Plan What to Say. ...
  5. Don't Blame. ...
  6. Stay Calm. ...
  7. Avoid a Trial Separation. ...
  8. Maintain Boundaries.
9 Jun 2017

How do you prepare for a healthy divorce? ›

Modify use of speaking or singing voice.
  1. Absolutely no screaming or shouting.
  2. Warm up gently before voice use.
  3. Use easy onset of voicing.
  4. Avoid vocal projection.
  5. Use soft, breathy vocal quality during speaking.
  6. Maintain use of good breath support during speaking or singing.
  7. Use only mid-range during singing.

How do I know if Im ready for divorce? ›

If your spouse is cheating on you, then divorce may be the only option. If your spouse is causing you to get into debt through gambling or spending through your savings on alcohol, bad investments, or excessive use of credit cards – that's one of the signs you are ready for a divorce.

What are the stages of going through a divorce? ›

There are two processes in divorce.

The emotional process can be broken down into 5 stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

What are the signs your marriage is over? ›

7 Signs Your Marriage Is Over, According to Experts
  • Lack of Sexual Intimacy. In every marriage, sexual desire will change over time. ...
  • Frequently Feeling Angry with Your Spouse. ...
  • Dreading Spending Alone-Time Together. ...
  • Lack of Respect. ...
  • Lack of Trust. ...
  • Disliking Your Spouse. ...
  • Visions of the Future Do Not Include Your Spouse.
7 Dec 2019

Should you let your spouse know you are filing for divorce? ›

Do I have to tell my spouse? No. Technically you can wait until your spouse is served with divorce papers, and have the papers do the telling. It may be considered bad form in most cases — except for abuse — not to have a conversation, however.

How do you know if your marriage is beyond repair? ›

5 Signs Your Relationship Is Beyond Repair
  • 1) You keep breaking up and getting back together. ...
  • 2) You're afraid of your significant other. ...
  • 3) Your bond or feelings have dissipated. ...
  • 4) Your relationship is tainted with toxicity. ...
  • 5) One or both of you aren't willing to make an effort.
28 Nov 2017

How should a woman prepare for divorce? ›

9 Critical Steps Women Should Take To Prepare For Divorce
  1. Gather your financial records. ...
  2. Open a Post Office Box. ...
  3. Start putting money away for legal and other professional fees. ...
  4. Open a new checking and savings account. ...
  5. Open new credit cards in your name only. ...
  6. Get a copy of your credit report.

When to call it quits in a marriage? ›

One of the most prominent signs of when to call it quits in a marriage is unwillingness to communicate. No matter how hard you try to engage your partner, it doesn't seem to work. You try the nice voice and the sweet thoughts. You try the yelling and the threatening.

What is the hardest stage of divorce? ›

Perhaps the most difficult period of divorce is the “separation period.” That is the time between when you decide to get a divorce, and the date when you are actually divorced.

What divorce does to a woman emotionally? ›

Emotional Symptoms of Divorce

During the first six months of separation, women are more prone to symptoms of depression, poor health, loneliness, work inefficiency, insomnia, memory difficulties, and increased substance abuse.

What is a walk away wife? ›

Walkaway Wife Syndrome is a term used when wives leave their husbands. It occurs when an unhappy wife suddenly divorces her spouse without warning, which opens up a lot of questions.

How do I know if my marriage is worth saving? ›

15 signs your marriage is worth saving
  1. You're having second thoughts.
  2. It all started when you had kids.
  3. You still value the sanctity of marriage.
  4. You still want to work on your marriage.
  5. You can't picture your life without your spouse.
  6. Your problems aren't really about your relationship.
  7. You still love the person.
14 Jan 2022

What are good reasons to get divorced? ›

The legal reasons for divorce can vary by state, but below are some of the most generally accepted grounds to file for at-fault divorce:
  • Adultery or cheating.
  • Bigamy.
  • Desertion.
  • Mental incapacity at time of marriage.
  • Marriage between close relatives.
  • Impotence at time of marriage.
  • Force or fraud in obtaining the marriage.
3 Apr 2020

Can my husband divorced me without me knowing? ›

Can you get a divorce without notifying your spouse? Generally, no. Although courts may make an exception if notifying your soon-to-be ex-spouse is not possible. In most instances, service of process on your spouse is required.

Why do I feel guilty for leaving my husband? ›

It's common for one or both spouses to feel guilty when infidelity, financial troubles or large-scale disagreements cause a marriage to end. Additionally, one party can feel guilty for leaving the marriage – even if it was extremely unhealthy. In most cases, feeling some degree of guilt is normal.

At what point is a relationship over? ›

One of the key signs your relationship is ending is that you are no longer vulnerable and open with your partner. A cornerstone of happy, healthy ​relationships is that both partners feel comfortable being truly open to sharing thoughts and opinions with one another.

How do I accept my marriage is over? ›

How to Accept That Your Marriage Is Over
  1. When It's Over. The partner not wanting the divorce may not understand why the other person isn't willing to try to work it out. ...
  2. The Road to Recovery. ...
  3. Embrace Your New Life. ...
  4. Look Outside Yourself. ...
  5. Practice Letting Go. ...
  6. Look for Joy. ...
  7. Make a Plan. ...
  8. Be Self Aware.

Who regrets divorce? ›

Divorce Regret Statistics

80 percent of couples who divorce in the midst of an affair regret the decision to do so. In a study of 1,147 Americans ranging from 40 to 79 years old, two percent of males and two percent of females noted regretting their divorce.

What is stonewalling in a relationship? ›

What does it mean to stonewall someone? In simple terms, stonewalling is when someone completely shuts down in a conversation or refuses to interact with another person.

What are three red flags in a relationship? ›

13 red flags in a relationship to look out for
  • Overly controlling behavior. Overly controlling behavior is a common red flag. ...
  • Lack of trust. ...
  • Feeling low self-esteem. ...
  • Physical, emotional, or mental abuse. ...
  • Substance abuse. ...
  • Narcissism. ...
  • Anger management issues. ...
  • Codependency.
1 Feb 2022

How do you know your husband doesn't value you? ›

He is no longer affectionate with you, physically or verbally. He no longer makes sweet or romantic gestures toward you. He doesn't say "I love you" anymore. He still says "I love you," but something about it feels hollow or forced, like he's just going through the motions.

How long does the depression stage of divorce last? ›

Individuals may go through several stages of mourning or grief. The emotional intensity of this period usually reaches a peak within the first six months of separation. However, the grieving process may take as long as two years.

When divorce is the best option? ›

Other signs that divorce might be the best choice for you: Your spouse has shown a repeated pattern of abuse. Your spouse has alcohol or substance abuse issues and will not get help. Your spouse has repeatedly been unfaithful and shows no real interest in changing.

What rights do men have during a divorce? ›

In California, men enjoy the same rights as women and are entitled to equal custody and support. To make sure this happens, talk with a qualified California Divorce family law attorney.

How do I protect my house in a divorce? ›

In many cases, the simplest way to keep the house in a divorce if it still has a mortgage is to refinance. The best-case scenario is for you to refinance and remove the mortgage from your ex's name altogether. You'll need to qualify for the mortgage on your own, so make sure to have all your financial ducks in a row.

Can I spend money during a divorce? ›

Large and frequent cash expenditures before the divorce may also appear suspicious and can often be difficult to explain months later at a deposition or court hearing. If possible, pay by credit card, check or wire. It does not hurt to keep a paper trail of your spending before and after the divorce has started.

How many people are happier after divorce? ›

Waite examined the couples who rated their marriage as “life in hell.” Of the couples who stayed married, 78 percent were happy with life five years later. Only 53 percent of those who chose to separate or divorce said they were happy.

Who hurts more after a divorce? ›

While there's no argument that everyone endures the pain of divorce in one way or another, many people may be surprised to hear that, according to research, men have a much more difficult time with a split than women.

What is emotional abandonment in marriage? ›

What we're talking about here is emotional abandonment. Instead of physically leaving the relationship, your spouse simply checks out emotionally. They stop investing in the marriage, leaving you feeling disconnected and unwanted.

How do I ask for divorce peacefully? ›

There's no single “right” answer when asking for a divorce, but with preparation, you can make a tough conversation go a little more smoothly:
  1. Prepare Yourself. ...
  2. Choose A Suitable Place and Time. ...
  3. Keep Your Cool for Your Kids. ...
  4. Be Gentle, But Firm. ...
  5. Listen to Their Perspective. ...
  6. Be Understanding and Empathetic.
19 Dec 2019

How do you initiate a divorce? ›

STEP 1: First Motion involves joint filing of divorce petition. STEP 2: Husband & wife appear before court to record statements after filing of petition. STEP 3: Court examines petition, documents, tries reconciliation, records statements. STEP 4: Court passes order on First Motion.

How do you tell your husband you want to leave? ›

Here are my best tips.
  1. Make sure the kids are somewhere else. ...
  2. Be direct and as compassionate as possible. ...
  3. Do it in person. ...
  4. Speak only about yourself. ...
  5. Don't make idle threats about not giving your spouse any money or taking the children. ...
  6. Make sure you're safe. ...
  7. Once the decision is made, be sure to get educated.
23 Jan 2018

How do I talk to my spouse about divorce? ›

How to Bring Up Divorce
  1. Be Honest. When mentioning divorce, the best course of action is to be honest. ...
  2. But Don't Discuss Too Many Details. ...
  3. Be Prepared. ...
  4. Be Aware of When You Tell Them. ...
  5. Be Gentle But Also Be Firm. ...
  6. What If They Refuse to Cooperate? ...
  7. Know When to Get Help. ...
  8. Seek Professional Help When Discussing Arrangements.
20 Mar 2019

Is divorce better than an unhappy marriage? ›

It helps you both grow individually. If you wonder why divorce is good, know that a bad marriage can stop the growth for both of you. So, it's better to file for divorce and go separate ways. This will remove distraction in the long run and help you both bring the focus back to your life.

What should a woman ask for in a divorce settlement? ›

You can ask for life insurance, a smaller share of your accumulated debt, more of the family heirlooms or jewelry, or a higher percentage of the retirement funds. Just like women, the men can ask for whatever they feel like they're entitled to within the divorce.

What are good reasons to get divorced? ›

The legal reasons for divorce can vary by state, but below are some of the most generally accepted grounds to file for at-fault divorce:
  • Adultery or cheating.
  • Bigamy.
  • Desertion.
  • Mental incapacity at time of marriage.
  • Marriage between close relatives.
  • Impotence at time of marriage.
  • Force or fraud in obtaining the marriage.
3 Apr 2020

What is the most common age to get divorced? ›

The average age of divorcing couples in America is about 30 years old, with divorcing women skewing a little bit younger than divorcing men.

How long does it take to get a divorce if both parties agree? ›

A divorce or dissolution will take at least 6 months to complete, even if your circumstances are straightforward. It might take longer if you need to sort out issues with money, property or children. These things will be dealt with separately to your divorce or dissolution.

How long does a one sided divorce take? ›

So in case of divorce by mutual consent, it usually takes 18-24 months. In case of a contested divorce, the period is longer, ranging from three to five years because of complications and possibility that either party can challenge the decision in the High Court and Supreme Court.

How do I separate from my husband peacefully? ›

Marriage Separation Advice: 7 Tips for a Healthy Process
  1. Treat your co-parent as you would treat a business partner. ...
  2. Don't make any significant changes. ...
  3. Discuss the various options for pathways to an amicable divorce. ...
  4. Choose your family mediator and/or lawyer. ...
  5. See a counselor and/or doctor. ...
  6. Wait to start a new relationship.

How do I leave my husband when I have nothing? ›

How to leave a relationship when you have no money (6 ways)
  1. Start a side hustle. Think about what you're good at, and chances are you can turn it into a side hustle. ...
  2. Sell items you don't need. ...
  3. Set a budget. ...
  4. Use coupons and shop sales. ...
  5. Trade services with friends or family. ...
  6. Ask family for help.
7 Aug 2022

How do I leave my wife without losing everything? ›

7 Tips to Avoid Giving Up Too Much to Your Wife in Your Divorce
  1. Tip #1: Identify Your “Separate” Assets. ...
  2. Tip #2: Prioritize Your “Marital” Assets. ...
  3. Tip #3: Think about Your Wife's Priorities. ...
  4. Tip #4: Weigh Your Options. ...
  5. Tip #5: Consider the Other Financial Aspects of Your Divorce. ...
  6. Tip #6: Put Together a Plan.
20 Jul 2019

What is the number one cause of divorce? ›

Abuse. The most serious reason to consider divorce is any persistent pattern of spousal abuse. This certainly encompasses physical abuse, which can place one spouse's life in immediate danger. However, patterns of verbal or financial abuse can also be corrosive and are very valid grounds to leave the marriage.

What should you not say to your spouse? ›

12 things you should never say to your partner
  • ''If you really loved me, you'd do it. '' ...
  • ''You make me whole. ...
  • ''I wish things were how they used to be. ...
  • ''You make me feel guilty for hanging out with friends. ...
  • "You're so boring – you cramp my style." ...
  • ''Why do you NEVER listen to me? ...
  • ''You're so selfish! ...
  • ''You've changed.
20 Apr 2017


1. Divorce Checklist: How to Prepare for Divorce
(Perna & Abracht, LLC)
2. After Divorce Checklist
(Jacobson Family Law)
3. What You Need To Know About Divorce Recovery As An Engineer
(Rachael Sloan - Relationship Coach)
4. Take Control of Your Divorce
(Rogue Finances & Life by Jesus Gonzales)
5. The Essential Checklist for Divorce
(Divorce Directory)
6. UnPHILtered: What To Ask Yourself Before You Divorce
(Dr. Phil)

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