Family Law Is All We Do

Preparing for Divorce in Michigan

Michigan Divorce Lawyer Ellen Paynter is frequently asked by potential Michigan divorce clients, "How do you prepare for a divorce?" 

  • Nobody likes to think that their marriage may be ending, but planning ahead and preparing for a divorce in Michigan can avoid unnecessary stress and conflict in the future.
  • The following is a list of suggested things to do in preparation for a divorce. This is a very general list and it is not intended to be specific legal information or advice. 
  • This list should be used by you as a tool to start you thinking about things that may be important as you prepare for your divorce.  You should always talk to your Michigan divorce lawyer about how to plan for your specific divorce situation.  Comments and suggestions regarding this list are always welcomed.

Top Ten Steps Regarding How to Prepare for a Divorce in Michigan

  1. Be Informed
  2. Keep Records
  3. Gather Asset Information
  4. Gather Debt Information
  5. Protect Your Credit
  6. Be Aware of the Monthly Household Income
  7. Be Aware of the Monthly Household Expenses
  8. Think About the Future
  9. Prepare for Discussions with Your Spouse
  10. Remain Calm and Carry On, Take It Slow

Step 1: Be Informed. Knowledge is power when going through a divorce in Michigan

  • Attempt joint counseling. Although you are NOT required to attend joint counseling to receive a divorce in Michigan, an attempt at joint counseling should be made, even if the end result affirms your decision to file for divorce. When you look back, years from now, you will take comfort from the fact that you made every effort to try to save your marriage.
  • Consult with an attorney about your legal rights. Prior to your consultation, make a written list of the questions you want to discuss with the attorney. This is one of the most important events in you life. Make sure that you hire an attorney who is experienced in family law and with whom you feel comfortable. SEE OUR MEETING WITH A DIVORCE LAWYER PAGE.
  • Investigate the community resources available to you. There are many community resources available for you and your children for counseling, financial assistance and divorce workshops, etc.
  • Hire a good therapist or join a support group. You are loosing your best friend, the person who, in the past you to talked to about everything. You will need someone with understanding to talk with about what is going on in your life. Ward Presbyterian Church in Northville, Michigan offers the largest Divorce Recovery Workshop in the area. Other local religious and community organizations offer the same or similar programs. Space for Changing Families is also a program that is offered local on a fairly regular basis. Usually local newspapers like the Oakland Press provides local listing about current support group offerings.
  • Consider medication. Most people going through a divorce are clinically depressed. Discuss with your therapist or family doctor about what medications are available to help you through this difficult time.
  • Read all about it. There are some very good books on divorce available from your public library or at the local bookstore. See our DIVORCE BOOKS Page.

Step 2: Keeping records in a divorce in Michigan

  • Time for a new email address.  Your spouse knows your email address and password.  Time for a new one, or at a minimum change your password to one that your spouse does not know or can guess.
  • Get a P.O. Box, or have an alternate place for mail for yourself. If you and your spouse are continuing to reside together during the divorce proceeding, you may want to consider getting a post office box for your own mail.
  • Have a safe place to keep YOUR documents. If you do not have a safe place outside the marital home to keep copies of important documents, you may want to get a safe deposit box at a bank. (fyi ~ Your vehicle is not a safe place. Consider a friend's house.)
  • Write out a timeline of your relationship. Write a narrative detailing the marital history for your attorney.  Include the date you began living together, the date you married, your children's birth dates, any prior separation dates, any prior divorce filings, dates when large assets were acquired, and a list of the property and their values that either of you brought into the marriage or inherited during the marriage.
  • Keep your eyes wide open. Review the mail that comes to the house. If there is mail that your spouse doesn’t normally allow you to open, make a list of the senders and the return addresses, and take pictures of the document and/or envelope with your camera or phone. If you have access to the mail, make copies of all important documents like those from brokerage houses, insurance companies, credit card issuers, banks, etc. Keep these copies in a safe place, not at the marital home.
  • Keep you mouth shut.  Remember things you say and do can be held against you in a divorce.  Assume everything you say is being recorded. Assume everything you type is being copied. Keep any information about your divorce or your spouse out of any social media sites.  Do not post any reavealing photos on social media sites.

Step 3: Gather asset information

  • Know what you own. Gather information about what you own.  Make a spreadsheet with a list of you and your spouse's assets and debts.  Include all real property and major assets, include their values.
  • Make a list of your valuables. Go through your house, room by room, and make a list or take pictures on a digital camera of all of the items in each room and think of a value for each item.  Make a spreadsheet of this list and include whether or not each item is something you wish to keep.
  • Make copies or scan the last 12 months of all statements.  Make copies of financial statements, tax returns, retirement plan documents, brokerage statements, insurance policies, deeds, bank account records, property tax statements, etc.  Keep these copies in a safe place, not at the marital home.
  • Make copies of all insurance documents.  Make copies of any and all insurance policies relating to the marital residence, furnishings or other assets, including any riders for jewelry, silverware or other valuables. Keep these copies in a safe place, not at the marital home.

Step 4: Gather debt information

  • Know what you owe. Remember you are entitled to one free credit report each year. Order your free credit report at
  • Make copies of all debts. Make copies of documents that reflects anything you and your spouse owe, including all credit card statements, mortgage statements, home equity loan statements, vehicle titles, boat registrations, etc. Keep copies of these documents in a safe place, not at the marital home.
  • Make copies of all loan documents. Make a copies of any mortgage or home equity loan closing documents and any financial statements provided for those or other loans. Keep these copies in a safe place, not at the marital home.

Step 5: Protect your credit

  • Build up your own credit.  If you do not have credit cards in your own name, you should immediately obtain credit cards in your own name so that you can establish credit. It may be easier for you to establish this credit while you are still married. Without a credit history, you may find it difficult after the divorce to purchase a house or even a car.
  • Be aware of what accounts are joint.  When you are ready to separate, close all joint credit card accounts.
  • Do not create more debt. Do not create any additional indebtedness and do not allow your spouse to do so either.  Do not make major purchases or allow your spouse to make major purchases just prior to filing for divorce or during the divorce proceedings without consulting first with a Michigan divorce lawyer.
  • Do not refinance your home. Do not refinance the marital home just prior to filing for divorce.  Discuss this matter with a Michigan divorce attorney to determine what is best to do in your situation.

Step 6: Be aware of your monthly household income and special items

  • Special items. If you have any special things that belong to you, consider moving those items out of the house.  Keep a record of those items, as you will be required to account for them during the divorce proceeding.
  • Take pictures of belongings. If you believe that your spouse may intend to remove some items from the home, take pictures of those items, or even consider video taping all items in the house, room by room.  (Remember do not keep the pictures or video tapes at the marital home.)
  • Keep items you wish to use in a safe place. If you have any incriminating information about your spouse like a video tape, a police report, a diary, or copies of emails to his/her lover, keep these items in a safe place, not at the marital home.
  • Use joint funds. Before you separate, use joint funds to repair your automobile and home, buy clothes for yourself and your children, and get needed dental work and medical checkups. If you wait until after separation, some of these expenses may be yours alone.
  • Set aside funds. If possible, set aside cash reserves for both parties to use during the first few months of separation.
  • Separate joint funds. Consider transferring your half of the joint funds to your separate bank account.  Do not spend it recklessly as the Court will require you to account for it.
  • Secure funding for an attorney. Make arrangements to secure funds for retaining an attorney.  Either from marital funds, borrowing from friends or family, or utilizing a credit card.
  • Pay debt off. Consider paying bills and credit cards that are solely in your name from joint funds before separating, so that you do not have to worry about your credit rating being damaged due to bills that may not be paid during the divorce.
  • Keep inherited funds separate. Keep all inheritances separate form your spouse. If an inheritance is  received, don't put it in both you and your spouses’ name and don’t use  it toward marital purchases or marital expenses.
  • Be aware of unearned potential income. Consider postponing bonuses or deferring income until after the divorce in order to reduce your potential liability for alimony and/or support.  Be  aware of your spouse's potential bonuses or potential deferred income.

Step 7: Be aware of your monthly expenses

  • Know your expenses. Become familiar with all the expenses associated with maintaining the marital residence and the related needs of your spouse and your children. You should know where you can trim the excess from personal and household expenses since you or your spouse may have to maintain a separate residence along supporting with the marital residence during the divorce proceeding.
  • Know your spending history. Prepare a spending history for last year from your checkbooks, checking accounts and credit card statements, so you can determine your future needs and decide where to cut back if possible.

Step 8: Think about the future

  • Be aware of career options. Take into account the financial impact the divorce will most likely have on your income.  If you have children, take into account the hours you will have to work and the day care costs that may be involved.
  • Be aware of what assets you want. Think about which assets you would like to keep, and what you are wiling to give up. Some people have specific items that they are emotionally tied to, regardless of the cost.
  • Be aware of the consequences. Consult with your accountant about the tax consequences of various options, like your keeping the house, and the dependency exemptions for the children.
  • Be aware of where you want to live. Think about where you will live after your divorce is final.  If you want to keep the marital home, immediately consult with a loan officer to determine if you can afford it.

Step 9: Prepare for discussions with your spouse

  • Spill the beans. Decide how you want to tell your spouse.
  • Begin negotiations. If you can talk to your spouse about the divorce, begin negotiation discussions with him or her as calmly as possible.  Do not enter into any written agreements with your spouse without talking to your attorney first.
  • Determine the agreements. Find out where your spouse is willing to make concessions.
  • Determine the road blocks. Find out where your spouse is not willing to budge.

Step 10: Take it slow

  • This list may be overwhelming.  It is suggested that you not RUSH into doing all of these things at once. 
  • Planning for a divorce is best done carefully and slowly. Divorce may be a frightening venture, but it can be an opportunity for your personal growth and a new beginning in your life.
  • Being informed and being prepared can help you make your divorce a more positive experience.

Paynter & Associates

Main Office

7071 Orchard Lake Road

Suite 245

West Bloomfield, Michigan 48322

Satellite Office

100 West Big Beaver Road, Suite 200

Troy, Michigan 48084


Phone 248-851-7555

Fax 877-877-7955



SKYPE available upon request


Weekdays:  9am to 5pm.

Early Morning: By appointment only.

Evenings: By appointment only.

Weekends: By appointment only.

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