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After years of experience representing people across Tennessee in divorce matters, I have developed a list of 15 things that every person should do before filing for divorce. Of course, in any given case, there may be other steps that should be taken. These are the common core.

      1. Obtain proof of your spouse’s income. Current check stubs, W-2’s and prior year tax returns will work.
      2. Itemize all marital assets (real estate, household goods, motor vehicles, farm equipment, business equipment, personal property, jewelry, etc.).
      3. Itemize all marital and personal debts (mortgages, loans, credit cards, charge accounts, student loans, IRS, etc.).
      4. Obtain copies of all financial/medical/school records (bank accounts, retirement/401-k accounts, tax records, medical records, school records, mortgage documents, deeds, etc.).
      5. Make a list of all monthly expenses (utility bills, phone bills, other bills, food expenses, taxes, insurances, etc.).
      6. Determine the expected costs of running 2 households (it always costs more to run 2 households than 1, its simple math).
      7. Start putting back extra money for unexpected expenses.
      8. Separate/close joint accounts, get cash on hand. Once the divorce is filed, there is an injunction against these actions. See this post.
      9. Cancel unnecessary credit/charge accounts.
      10. Discuss/explore options to save your marriage with your spouse. Consider all avenues available to you.
      11. Discuss divorce with your children. Make sure they know they are loved by both parents.
      12. Protect all potential evidence, unless it is incriminating to you. Do not break the law in doing either.
      13. Change all online passwords, protect electronic data. Yes, this means Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Twitter, WordPress and all other online accounts you have. Delete public information that may be used against you.
      14. Explain your circumstances to your employer. You never know when you might need time off to tend to unexpected events or to attend Court.
      15. Consult with and retain an experienced divorce attorney.