Odd to be writing about divorce during this holiday season. But not when you realize that divorce filings typically jump in January. The word divorce conjures up many emotions but if you are thinking of proceeding, planning ahead will make all the difference for every member of the family. As experienced Family Law attorneys for over 35 years, we advise our clients that if they have made the difficult decision to proceed, there are steps they can take to ease the process.
7 STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE YOU FILE FOR DIVORCE
1. PREPARE A MARITAL BALANCE SHEET
You can’t decide your financial goals for your divorce without having an accurate picture of your assets and debts. Put together a simple balance sheet showing all of your assets and debts. Include real property, cars, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and other assets, as well as any mortgages, notes, credit cards, and other debts. This can give you an idea of what you and your spouse will split, and will give you a realistic understanding of your financial future.
2. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING
Yes, you think you know this person with whom you’ve shared many years of your life. You think that they will play fair and won’t double-cross you. And sometimes, it might be like that. And sometimes it won’t be. So for your protection, document, and record everything. Do this for protection only, even if you’re not planning to use this information. Try to do most of your communication through email or texting since you can keep better records that way. This can prevent the divorce from getting very ugly.
3. DEVELOP CREDIT IN YOUR NAME AND INCREASE YOUR CREDIT SCORES
Once you are divorced, you’ll need to have credit in order to rent an apartment, get a car loan, or secure a mortgage on the house. If you never established credit, you can take the time before you file to do so. Start by looking online with credit companies and determine what’s best for you—whether it’s getting a credit card of your own, even if you have to put funds aside to secure it. Many people assume that they can establish credit through their spouse once they are married—that may not be the case, and you should establish your own credit before you can no longer rely on a spouse. In addition, if you have bad credit, spend some time increasing your credit score. No matter what your individual situation may be, getting your credit in shape is important to your financial health now and in the future.
If you have a joint bank, credit card, and financial accounts you need to keep a record of the account info including the username and password for every account. If your spouse/partner is the primary on the account, download the past 2 years’ statements, etc… Just in case he/she changes the password, denying you access.
5. MAKE NECESSARY PURCHASES OR SALES
In most jurisdictions, the judge automatically issues an order at the beginning of your divorce case that prohibits you or your spouse from selling, buying, or otherwise encumbering or disposing of any marital property. Courts do this to prevent either spouse from draining the bank accounts or dissipating the marital estate out of spite.
If you’ve long been meaning to upgrade your car or sell a rental property, you’ll be prevented from doing so if you file for divorce first. While it’s not appropriate to drain the bank accounts before filing for divorce (as that can come back to bite you), if you have a legitimate sale or purchase that’s been in the works, it’s best to complete it before filing for divorce.
6. DEVELOP A SUPPORT NETWORK
One often overlooked aspect of divorce is the emotional toll it may take on you and your family. Just as important as hiring an attorney and obtaining relevant documents is surrounding yourself with people who can help you through this difficult time. If you have the financial means, it can help to speak with a therapist or other mental health professional. At the very least, speak with friends who have been through a divorce. Let your family and friends know that you’ll be leaning on them for advice and moral support. Being emotionally stable will better prepare you to make smart decisions as your divorce progresses.
If you have children, speak with their school counselors and pediatricians. They can advise you on how to speak with your children and what to expect. Speaking with them will alert them to look for any changes in your child.
7. HIRE THE RIGHT ATTORNEY
We are often asked if you need to hire an attorney. Actually, not always. Read here to find out.
But if you decide to retain an attorney, do your homework. Ask for referrals from groups or people you trust, but do not rely on their recommendations alone. Call 2-3 attorneys (Red flag if you cannot get the attorney on the phone); read his/her Google or AVVO reviews (the good and the bad); interview those that have built a trusted reputation over years, and hire the one that you are confident will take the time to listen and will serve your needs. Some people use Legal Referral sites but they only display the firms that pay to be on their site.
Then call our firm.