21 Things to Do Before Asking for a Divorce

couple arguing and potentially asking for a divorce

In this article, you will find:

Pulling Out

14. Withdraw Your Money From the Bank

If you fear your request for divorce will send your spouse straight to the bank, withdraw half of the money in all your savings accounts first. Place the money in a new account, and keep it there until you and your spouse can work out the distribution of property.

Do not spend the money if at all possible. If the money is in a checking account and you know the account is nearly emptied every month to pay bills, do not withdraw any of that money; you'll create financial havoc if checks bounce.

15. Consider Canceling Charge Cards

If you pay the credit card bills, consider canceling your accounts — or at least reducing the spending limit. In one case, the wife's announcement that she wanted a divorce sent the husband on a $50,000 shopping spree — and she became liable for the home entertainment system and the Jacuzzi (installed, incidentally, in a house she stood to lose).

If you cancel or reduce lines of credit, of course, you must inform your spouse to save embarrassment and, later, anger. You can say the family needs to cut back, which is probably going to be true.

You Can Do It!

Before you start divorce proceedings, you might want to consider the legal difference between divorce and separation. If you want finality in your marital status, it is certainly preferable to be divorced. Alternatively, if you are not ready to be divorced, a judgment of separation is preferable. We suggest that, to the extent possible, you investigate these alternatives in advance.

16. Decide How to Tell Your Spouse

Here, you might need professional advice or advice from a battle-worn friend. Would your partner accept the news more easily in a public place, such as a restaurant, or in the privacy of your home? 

If you're afraid your announcement will send your spouse off the deep end, be sure that you've consulted a professional counselor beforehand. Although there's often no way to lessen the hurt and rejection, a professional therapist might be able to supply you with strategies for leaving your spouse with as much of his or her self-esteem intact as possible.

17. Decide How to Tell the Children

21 Things to Do Before Divorce: Tell the Kids

You might want to consult with a professional. Would the news be best coming from the two of you together or from one of you alone?

One husband we know planned to tell the children that he was moving out on Christmas. He thought that would be a good time because the whole family would be together. His lawyer tactfully suggested he choose a different day.

More: Divorce: What to Tell the Kids

18. Take Property That Belongs to You and Safeguard It

High school yearbooks, jewelry, computers, your grandmother's family heirlooms, whatever — if it indisputably belongs to you and you fear your spouse might take it for spite or leverage, move it out of the house. If you have several such items, move them out slowly, over time, before you announce your plans. Depending on the size of the objects, you might store them in a safe-deposit box, a storage facility or the home of a trusted friend.

More: Who Gets the House?

Divorce Dictionary

Marital property, also called joint property, is generally what a husband and wife acquire during the marriage. In some jurisdictions, inheritances, disability awards and gifts received from a third party — that is, not the spouse — are not considered marital or joint property, even if a spouse received them during the marriage. Other exceptions may exist as well.

19. Don't Make Any Unnecessary Major Purchases

When there are suddenly two households to maintain, you might find your financial freedom drastically curtailed. The number of people who buy brand-new cars while they're starting divorce proceedings is staggering. The payments could financially devastate you, and your spouse can use the existence of your new car as proof of your ability to pay for all sorts of other expenses. Sorry, guys and gals: Resist.

20. Make Sure That Your Spouse Is the First to Know Your Plans

Although you might consult with friends before you take the plunge, be sure that they know if word gets around before you've told your spouse you want a divorce, it could spell trouble for you down the road.

21. Stay in the Marital Residence If Possible

Depending on your circumstances and the laws of your state, you could weaken your position on custody and possibly your personal or marital property if you move out. You should discuss any plans to move from the marital residence with your lawyer before making a decision. As always, take immediate action if abuse is at issue.Divorce is messy business, but following these steps can help you stay organized and stay sane. If you're not sure you're ready for divorce but unsure what separation entails, check out Separation: Beginning of the End or a New Beginning?