We always talk about having a strategy in place before filing for a divorce. If you and your spouse are headed for a divorce, a little preparation will alleviate the financial and emotional sting from the process.
Use this pre-divorce checklist to make sure all your bases are covered before moving through the legal process of divorce.
Talk to an attorney
Everyone’s situation is unique and each case comes with a specific set of facts. You can get a broad idea about what to expect from reading online articles, but family law attorney is able to provide a clear picture about how your issues can be resolved.
It is in your best interest to understand your options, and the different divorce processes available for you to pursue. Avail yourself of a family law office free consultation to learn more about where you stand and the options available to you moving forward.
Avoid moving out without an agreement
Be careful about moving out of the marital home before a divorce, as it can affect custody and visitation and community property considerations. It is wise to work with an attorney on a written agreement that outlines financial arrangements and custodial arrangements between both parties prior to the move. Until then, living in the martial home is advisable unless abuse is taking place. Read more: Rules for cohabitation during a divorce
Start custody planning
Parents who are separating will eventually have to draw up a parenting plan that lays out custody, visitation, living arrangements, and how decisions are to be made concerning the health, education, and well-being of the children.
Disagreements about custody, more so than any other issue in a divorce, end up before a family court judge. In making custody decisions when parents cannot reach an agreement, the courts look to the status quo prior to separation.
Now is the time to document your involvement in your children’s lives. Know as much about them that as you possibly can—their doctor, their teacher, their coaches, and the name of their best friend. Have someone who isn’t a family member put into writing the extent of your involvement.
Separate joint accounts
In the eyes of the court, joint bank accounts are considered community property and shared 50/50 by spouses. Laws called ATROs restrain the depletion of shared finances once a divorce has been filed. Separating couples who wish to close joint accounts may do so—however, if anyone takes more than their fair share, the court could mandate reimbursement.
It is not unusual for separating couples to keep joint accounts open especially if the money is used for upkeep of the marital home and children’s expenses. Always keep accurate and detailed records that connect withdrawals with expenses related to maintaining the community. Read in more detail: Financial considerations when preparing for a divorce
Gather Your Documents
Most issues in a divorce are decided by the documents you have at your disposal. Take time to gather and organize important documents such as: deeds for real estate, vehicle registration, vehicle financing documents, monthly banking statements, retirement plan statements, and two years of credit card statements.
Keep these documents in a safe place that is not accessible to your spouse, like at the residence of a close family member or friend. Read in more detail at Divorce Planning: What Documents Should You Have Ready?
Work out a post-separation budget
The financial reality of divorce involves creating two households from the resources of what used to be one household. A singular household income will now support two. Both parties will have to make sacrifices to take the next step in their respective lives.
Once your family law attorney has the required financial documentation, you will have a reasonably clear picture to what spousal support and child support figures might look like for both parties.
That provides a valuable opportunity to budget for your new reality. In almost every case, having a clear financial picture is highly advantageous.
A divorce is one of the most stressful times in anyone’s life. Take measures to take care of yourself. Pick two or three close friends with whom you can vent. If it feels right, talk to your manager at work about your divorce. Set aside a few moments a day to meditate. It’s a good idea to talk to a therapist and seek out divorce support groups in your area.
About the author
James R Parke is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) with more than 40 years of experience practicing family law in southern California.