Writing a divorce letter can be a painful experience and one that feels very personal. However, you must involve an experienced divorce lawyer in the process to ensure you are protected and the things you need to say are made clear. The divorce letter will notify your partner that you want a divorce, that you are proceeding with the divorce, and what you want to leave with from the marriage. Depending on how long you have been married and how much you attained while married, this can get very complicated.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Retain a lawyer.

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While this was already stated, it is the most critical step to preparing a divorce letter. Without a lawyer, it is easy for someone to take advantage of you and your emotional state during this challenging process. Your lawyer will guide you through the divorce with understanding and compassion. They will make the hard calls for you, and they will stand up for you when needed. They will advise you regarding what is legal and what you can expect during mediation and divorce court. If your soon-to-be former spouse is fighting you on things, they can handle the communication between that person and their lawyer, so you don’t have to deal with the emotional turmoil of heated phone calls.

2. Make a list of all the marital assets.

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Before you can decide what you want to leave the marriage with, you need to have a complete list of everything you have as a married couple. This may include physical property like cars, property, collectibles, and electronics. It may consist of financial properties like investments, retirement funds, and insurance beneficiaries. It may include children and pets. Make a list of everything that is going to need to be divided. Everything down to the dishes will need to go to one of you.

3. Make a list of what you want to keep.

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Start with the physical and financial properties, and make a list of what you want to keep when the marriage is dissolved. If everything on the list is acquired while married, you each have a right to them, so you can’t just say you want everything. Your soon-to-be former spouse gets stuff too, and it would be best if you decided what is most important to you and why. Likewise, you need to determine what items you are willing to use for negotiation if required. For example, if you own season tickets to a sports team, that may be something you ask for, but you are also willing to let go of during the process.

4. Outline what you want and need for your children.

It is always extra tricky when there are children involved in a divorce. You will need to detail a child custody agreement including how often you want the children to be with you. This will include days of the week and holidays. It would help if you detailed your expectations for decisions regarding your children, health care, schooling, and discipline. It would help if you described your expectations regarding who will pay for what for the children. This may include child support, health care expenses, school expenses, and other needs like clothes, books, sports, and social activities.

The divorce process is never an easy one. However, if you go about it the right way, you don’t have to make it harder than it needs to be. Get an experienced lawyer to walk you through it and advocate for you. Be clear about what you expect and why. If the divorce can’t be settled and a judge needs to make the decisions, you need to have clear reasons why you deserve what you are asking for. The more time you spend preparing for the divorce, the more confident you will feel going into court.