Things You Should Do to Prepare for Divorce
Though the divorce rate in the United States has decreased over the last several years, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the current divorce rate is 2.9 per 1,000 population. Whether you are merely contemplating a divorce or have made the difficult decision to proceed with divorce, the decisions that you make during the process will no doubt have a profound impact on your future.
Divorce is an emotional process and is sometimes also a complicated endeavor. The process of legally ending a marriage is accompanied with paperwork, division of marital assets, settling of debts and planning for the future. Taking proper steps at the outset of the process can make the entire thing seem less daunting. We have compiled a list of ten things you should do to prepare for divorce.
1. Consult an Attorney
Being informed about your legal rights and responsibilities during a divorce should be at the top of your list. The best way to gain that knowledge is to consult an attorney who is well-versed in family law. Being prepared before you file for divorce is very important as each decision you make could effect the outcome of your divorce. You want to be prepared for what may happen and what steps you can and cannot take to protect yourself, your children, and your assets.
You may plan to take your children to live at your parents’ house until the divorce is final or even move into an apartment for a brief period of time. From a legal point of view, moving to your parents’ home, even temporarily, could be a huge mistake. When you take the time to consult with an attorney, you will understand why this may not be the best idea and get advice on how to best handle the situation.
2. Copy Documents
In a divorce proceeding, information is important. Take the time to go through household files and make copies of everything you can find or have access to like tax returns, bank statements, check registers, investment statements, individual and joint retirement account statements, employee benefits handbooks, life insurance policies, mortgage documents, financial statements, credit card statements, wills, Social Security statements, automobile titles, etc. while you still have access to the information.
If either you or your spouse is self-employed, it is important to gather as much information as possible about the finances of the business. Make copies of any financial data stored on your home computer. These can be placed on a flash drive or copied to cloud-based storage for easy access.
3. Take Inventory of Household and Family Possessions.
If you haven’t already done so for homeowner’s insurance purposes, make a list of the major items like furniture, artwork, jewelry, appliances, automobiles, etc. If you have a second home, storage unit, or safe deposit box, do not forget to include them in your inventory. It can be helpful to have both a photographic and written description of this type of property to aid in valuation during the division of marital assets.
4. Know the Monthly Budget and Household Expenses
Are you the spouse primarily responsible for paying the household expenses? If so, this task may seem unnecessary. However, it will be beneficial during the divorce. As soon as possible, make a running tally of the monthly expenditures for the past year for each utility, mortgage, and other household expense. Keep track of the cash you spend daily so that you will be able to ascertain your monthly cash expenditures also.
5. Determine the Amount of Marital Debt
Married couples had over 120% more total debt on average in the second quarter of 2019 than single borrows, according to Experian. If possible, determine the family debt and consider paying it down as much as possible before divorce. Why? Determining who is responsible for the marital debt is often one of the most difficult things to negotiate during a divorce. If any of the debt was incurred by one spouse or the other before the date of marriage it is typically considered “non-marital debt” and belongs solely to the spouse who incurred it.
6. Know How Much Your Spouse Earns
During the dissolution of a marriage, it is crucial that you know how much money your spouse earns. If your spouse earns a regular salary, it is easy to look at a pay stub and determine his or her salary. If, on the other hand, your spouse is self-employed, owns a business, or receives any portion of income in cash, do your best to keep track of the money coming in for several months. It is important to review the money the being deposited and also the money be debited into your joint bank accounts. You should monitor the bank accounts regularly.
7. Determine Your Own Earning Potential
Every situation is different. You may have continued to work throughout your marriage, or you may have chosen to take some time off from work to devote yourself to your children and family. No matter the situation, it is important to think about your current and future employability.
8. Examine Your Own Credit History
Do you have any credit cards in your own name? If not, it may be a good idea to apply for one now, and use it to establish your credit history. If you have a poor credit history, try to pay down debt to improve your credit rating before divorce.
9. Build Your Own Emergency Fund
Do you have access to money of your own? What happens if your spouse moves out and stops paying bills? You will likely need to pay them until temporary support orders can be entered. If you are the one who is going to file for divorce, you’ll need money to hire an attorney. We recommend that you atart saving now and plan to initiate divorce proceedings when you have built up an emergency fund from which you can pay pills temporarily.
10. Put Your Kids First
Your children are the most important thing, especially during the dissolution of a marriage. Try to keep your children’s routines as normal as possible. If it is impossible for you and your spouse to be together with the children without arguing, create a schedule of separate times for each of you to be with the children. Stay involved (or become involved) in your children’s school, sports, and social activities. Do not badmouth your spouse to your children. Put your children first in your life.
At Platt Family Law, our goal is to make a difficult time more manageable. We have been through this process with many families and know that it is important for all of our clients to be aware of all the potential issues you will face during a divorce and to understand how the divorce process works. We strive to help all of our clients navigate the divorce process and make a painful and difficult situation a little easier. Call us today at 404-255-3434