5 Things to Do Before Filing for Divorce

Published date: November 2016
Author: Judy Wilkins

The decision to get a divorce is one of the most crucial conclusions a person can make with consequences that last for years or even a lifetime, however most couples begin this process unprepared and are often not on the same page about how the proceedings should be rolled out. This could also be because of the assumption that the sooner one can get out of a stressful situation the better, which unfortunately is usually not the case as this process can be dragged out for months or years.

With that said, spouses who are looking into getting a divorce can ensure they are better prepared for this process by following these five steps:

1. Hire a good divorce attorney
Hiring a divorce attorney to handle your divorce is a very important decision. If you are leaving a long-term marriage with children, assets and debts to be divided, who represents you during your divorce can determine how well you handle the divorce emotionally and financially. When deciding on which divorce attorney to go for it is important to find out more about their experience, rates and fees and also go through theirclienttestimonials so you can get an idea of how they work and whether you would be able to get along well with them.

2. Get an Idea of where you stand financially; determine what you own and what you owe
This can be done by simplydrawing up a list of what you own (your assets), list all cheque and savings account balances, personal property, real estate, and investments in your name.You also need to include a list of what you owe (your liabilities), list everything you owe creditors (lenders), including your bond, loans and credit card balances.

3. Gather Proof of Income
Income tax returns are some of the most important documents in a divorce because they can provide evidence related to many issues. For example, spousal income is a major factor in a court’s decision about whether to award maintenance. Make copies of your tax returns and any documents that are evidence of the sources of income stated on your returns, including statements referencing other types of less common income like dividend payments and rental property income.

4. Determine Your Goals regarding prime residency and contact of the children As a parent, you know your children better than anyone; use your best judgment to determine what the best setting for your children will be. Remember your children are not the ones getting divorced. Some families agree on shared living and others decide the mother is the primary caregiver – the situation is entirely up to your family situation.

5. Change your will and medical directives/living will
In South African law a bequest to your divorced spouse in your will, which was made prior to your divorce, will not necessary fall away after divorce. The Wills Act, 1953 (Act 7 of 1953) stipulates that, except where you expressly provide otherwise, a bequest to your divorced spouse will be deemed cancelled if you die within three months of the divorce. This provision is to allow a divorced person a period of three months to amend his/her will, after the trauma of a divorce. Should you fail to amend your will within three months after your divorce, your divorced spouse will benefit as indicated in the will.

You need to keep in mind that divorce proceedings can and do change people, so you also need to be emotionally prepared for this process and do not take any legal advice from your ex or their representatives. Leave all the divorce talk in the courtroom to avoid jeopardising your case.