Research your state’s laws regarding divorce, property, support and parenting. Washington State has a good official website as do many states. Proceed with caution on sites selling you something. Make sure a website or blog is relevant to your state. Check the writer’s credentials. Don’t get legal advice from nonlawyers. Blogs from lawyers in your community are a way to gauge their perspective.
While technically family pets are considered personal property, they often are more than that and have great emotional value. Folks have gone to court over their pets. There are no easy answers, but you may consider a version of a parenting plan for pets. Some people even provide “pet support” provisions.
Gather tax returns, pay stubs and account statements. Get a copy of your credit report and auto values. You may also want to save utility and household bills as well as track your usual expenditures. This will help as you work on financial issues. Do not think, however, that you must have all the financials in place to start your case.
Ideally you should tell the children together. Let them know Mom and Dad are no longer going to live together but Mom and Dad both love them. Help the children know it is not their fault. Some couples like to have the children pick furniture or paint colors for their new room, or involve them in other decision that will affect them.
Agreed-upon extracurricular activities and private schools are above child support and are allocated proportionally by each party’s earnings. Even if not agreed upon, if the child has habitually been engaging in those activities, a court might order to continue them. Some parents choose to simply raise the child support amount so they don’t have to do accounting.