Divorce can be incredibly stressful. Whether you’re ending a short-term marriage without children or separating after a 20-year marriage with three kids, many families don’t know where to start when it comes to the documents you’ll need to file for divorce.
Many divorcing families are surprised to learn that most counties have family law self-help centers that help families learn about which legal forms are required to start the process. This can be a great place to start, but most of these offices can’t give you legal advice on how to fill out the forms.
Here are some non-state specific forms available on Rocket Lawyer that you’ll need in your divorce:
Marriage Separation Agreement
A Marriage Separation Agreement outlines:
- how you will divide the assets and debts in your marriage
- any spousal support payments
- any child custody terms such as legal and physical custody or visitation
- any child support terms
A Marriage Separation Agreement can be very important for future questions and should serve as a guide or plan for your family as you dissolve your marriage. Rocket Lawyer’s customizable Marriage Separation Agreement is state-specific and prompts a family to answer questions as they work through the document, making sure that all of the necessary questions are answered.
A Parenting Plan (also known as a child custody agreement) outlines primary parenting responsibility for the children, and how medical and educational decisions will be made. This Parenting Plan can be written before you hire lawyers or go to court. The agreement can include topics like:
- specific schedules
- overnight care of children by a non-parent
- communication with children by phone, text, or email
- who is responsible for paying for transportation costs, school costs, and medical appointments
- conditions for travel outside of the state
- who will take the tax exemption and credit
- how children will spend the holidays.
To avoid future conflicts, it may be helpful to make your agreement more specific to address any possible concerns.
At some point in the divorce process, you will need your tax returns. It’s a good idea to have at least the last two years of tax returns, because the court, your attorney, or your spouse will inevitably ask for a copy. If you don’t have them, you can get a transcript or copy of your tax returns from the IRS.
Divorce is stressful, and the money issue is often the worst part. As hard as it may feel, it’s very important to have a good understanding of your finances before and during the divorce process. You will want to know, for example, whether you have life insurance and who the beneficiary is, what retirement accounts you own, and what the balance on your mortgage is. You should also have a copy of your recent pay stubs and receipts for any major expenses related to your children. Having a clear picture of your finances, especially if there is a big gap between your finances and your soon-to-be ex’s can only help your case.
While not a legal document, per se, I recommend that you get a new calendar (online or even paper). In the first few months of the divorce process, I believe it’s important to carve out some time for yourself on the calendar. The decision to dissolve your marriage inevitably creates many changes in your schedule, your children’s schedules, and your family’s time together. Even if finances are tight, you can schedule and reconnect with free activities you enjoy, like walking outside, gardening, hiking, and talking on the phone with friends.
Remember that since every state has different procedural rules when it comes to divorce, be sure you visit your local county and state websites to find more information and determine the specific legal procedure.