Are you considering divorce? The clients who met with me prior to pulling the trigger were better prepared and less stressed during the process. Here’s my top ten list for planning your divorce.
#1. Confirm Your Privacy.
Make sure no one else can access your email account. If you don’t know who has access, change your passwords or set up a new account. You will want to email yourself information, documents, and photographs for safe keeping.
Also make sure your electronics are not backing up to a shared data storage account, such as a family iCloud. Make sure your text messages and emails are not duplicated on shared devices, such as tablets. Log out of accounts on shared devices. Change your settings so shared devices do not store your password.
#2. Put Your Name on All Accounts and Real Property.
If possible, get your name on the real property deeds and all bank accounts. The court will assume that joint property is marital property. If a spouse adds the other spouse’s name to the deed of a pre-marital house, they likely transformed a non-marital asset into a marital asset! Not only does adding your name to bank accounts make them marital, this allows you to document what your spouse is earning and how he or she spends money. This can be helpful when determining support.
#3. Be a Superstar Parent.
Ideally at least 6 months before you divorce, go above and beyond with kid-related responsibilities – AND – document your actions! Attend your children’s medical appointments and educational meetings. Respond to teacher emails, help your son with his homework and stay informed about his grades. Go to your daughter’s soccer games and talk to her coach. Take photos to document special events, award ceremonies, recitals, games, and trips.
#4. Line Up Money.
Separation is expensive. No matter your income, transitioning from a dual income household into a single income household means cutting back. It may take several months for the court to order support. If you’re staying in the family home, you will need money to pay the bills on your own. If you’re moving out, you will need money for deposits and potentially replacement furniture.
Divorce is also expensive. Most attorneys require an advance fee between $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the complexity of your case. You may hire expert accountants or parenting evaluators, which come with additional costs. You should have money saved to front the cost of your divorce.
#5. Collect Important Documents.
Some things are hard to replace. Collect original documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, and passports.
All divorces require spouses to share financial documentation. Ease your stress by gathering these documents in advance. This includes insurance cards and policy declarations, retirement and brokerage account statements, bank and credit card statements, and tax returns.
#6. Educate Yourself on the Legal Process.
Meet with at least one attorney to learn about the divorce process. She will tell you what to expect in terms of timeline, deadlines, and costs. She can also give you specific advice on how best to prepare for the best outcome.
#7. Be Proactive About Your Mental Health.
Divorce is difficult for even the strongest person. You will have periods of uncertainty and stress, while dealing with the loss of a relationship. Protect your mental wellbeing by practicing self-care, such as making time for yourself, seeing a therapist, or even talking to your doctor about medication.
#8. Be Proactive About Your Children’s Mental Health.
If you have children, consider their ages, emotional maturity, and if counseling may be beneficial. Counselors may also help educate you on how to tell your children about the divorce. Because it could take several months for a first appointment with a good counselor, take the time to research counselors and find a good fit for your family.
#9. Run a Credit Report.
Many people keep separate finances and are surprised to learn about their spouse’s debt during divorce. Run a credit report on yourself to make sure your spouse hasn’t taken any debt in your name without your knowledge.
#10. Keep Sentimental Items Safe.
If there are a few personal items that you’d hate to lose, such as your father’s Bible or your grandmother’s rings, store them someplace safe, such as a safe deposit box or a friend’s home. You will still have to disclose the location of these items during the divorce, but you won’t risk losing them to an angry spouse.
This all assumes an ideal situation, which we know never happens in life! Do your best to check off some of the above listed tasks before you file for divorce.
Rachel Borntreger is an experienced, knowledgeable, and honest family law attorney who cares about her clients and works hard to achieve each client’s goals. If you would like more information about planning for your divorce, call our office at (850) 694-1411 or email her legal assistant, Alison, at firstname.lastname@example.org.