Deciding to divorce can be profoundly difficult, even when you believe it’s the right course of action. You likely shared loving and carefree times with your spouse, even if the relationship itself cannot be salvaged.

Once you initiate the process, a tremendous amount of change will likely occur in very short order. Prepare for wild swings in emotion as well as logistical, financial and physical challenges to follow. But also respect your thought process. You’ve gone over the situation in your head dozens of times. You’ve worked with your spouse, you’ve tried couples therapy. And now it’s time to act. Use this checklist to regain a sense of control:


  1. Retain a Qualified Family Law Attorney

The earlier you hire a (qualified!) lawyer, the better. Be sure to choose one with a background in family or divorce law. Interview potential candidates to find someone you’re comfortable with. Keep in mind that your attorney is there to protect your legal rights only. You may also need support from a mental health counselor, financial planner and others.

  1. Gather Key Paperwork

Get all the necessary forms for filing for divorce. Review each item carefully, and make sure you have all necessary supporting documentation. Be sure you meet the residency requirements for the county in which you plan on filing for divorce. Your attorney can help with this piece.

  1. Get Your Finances in Order

This might not be a “day one” item, but you will likely need to address this challenges sooner than later. Again, speak to your attorney about best practices. It’s not uncommon for the courts to freeze joint assets to keep couples from spending or taking excess money out of the bank out of spite. You’ll also need to submit a lot of paperwork with your divorce papers. Examples include W2s, paystubs, tax returns, life insurance policies, retirement plans, and account statements. Gather copies of all this documentation, but also consider opening a separate checking account for your future earnings.

  1. Write Down All Your Thoughts about the Divorce

One of the biggest reasons people stress out during big life changes is that events like divorce force us to recalibrate and renegotiate so many commitments. We make agreements with other people. We make agreements with ourselves. And wrenching change forces us to rethink all of that. To keep from being overwhelmed, take a page from productivity author, David Allen (Getting Things Done). Do a “brain dump” of everything on your mind into a private journal. By seeing your list of projects and commitments in one place, you’ll realize that they aren’t infinite. And you’ll have a 20,000 foot vantage that will make prioritizing easier.

The first 24 hours following your decision to divorce are crucial. Follow the Boy Scouts’ mantra and be prepared. Collect your thoughts and key paperwork, and find the family law support you need to stay in the driver’s seat. If you have any questions about the Minnesota divorce process, contact us for a case evaluation.