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File for divorce now or wait until the new year?

January is a popular month to start divorce proceedings-perhaps it's because of yet another unpleasant holiday season spent as a couple, or because you're the kind of person who loves making and keeping new year's resolutions. But is it worth waiting for, when you're miserable? While you may want to act right now, there are good reasons to wait until a few weeks into January:

  • If you or your spouse will receive financial bonuses at work in January, you'll want them included as part of your joint property (at least, one of you will).
  • Any anger or emotional fallout from a rough holiday together (or not together) will have time to dissipate, so you'll have a cooler head.
  • If any bombs are going to be dropped, it's better to wait until after the holidays when you have less family around and won't affect kids or others with the stress. You'll have more privacy, something you'll need.
  • Since December is a major season for shopping and spending, you don't want to give an unprepared spouse a reason to go off the rails and purchase a new car or something equally lavish as revenge.

Things you can do now to prepare for filing early next year (or anytime)

  • Find all your financial records and make copies of everything: bank account and credit card statements, mortgage statements, W-2 tax forms from this year and tax returns from previous years. Even if your relationship with your spouse is strong right now and you both agree on divorcing, things could take a turn, so know all of your assets and keep an extra copy of documents outside the house (at work or at a friend's or in a safety deposit box).
  • Study and learn your budget; how much do you have and how much do you owe? How much do you need on a weekly or monthly basis to meet your needs? What will that be like if you are reduced to your sole income?
  • Create an emergency fund for yourself, if you don't already have one that's set aside just for you. Start saving money for an attorney, as well.
  • If there are children in the marriage, start formulating plans for custody and draft a possible parenting plan. If possible, start discussing a plan with your spouse. But don't share any information with your children until it's really going to happen; there's no need to worry them until you file. What if you change your mind and you've put your kids through unnecessary stress?

You can be very proactive right now but still go slowly and carefully in pursuit of your ultimate goal: not being married at this same time next year. 

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