Getting divorced is complicated. Unlike getting married, there is a long, set legal process that must be followed in order to unwind a marriage and the finances associated with it. In addition, having a strategy from the get-go is critical to protecting your rights and making it likely that the marriage resolves either equitably or in your favor.
With that in mind, it is wise to hire a family lawyer before you file for divorce and to start planning before announcing your intentions. Here are some tips to assist with the latter:
Hiding income is common in divorce proceedings, but unless you can find evidence to prove it, the judge will likely accept the information presented. Protect yourself by gathering all income records, including commission statements, copies of bonus checks, profit sharing, and all other forms of income that you and your spouse have access to. This makes it possible to fact check what your spouse lists on the financial disclosure statements.
If all of your accounts are joint, there is a possibility that your spouse will react to the divorce filing by trying to remove your name or by shutting them down. While inappropriate, it happens. The best way to protect yourself financially is to have access to capital that is in your name only. If you do not have any credit cards in your name only, opening one and using it becomes even more important for building your personal credit history.
Review your credit card and loan balances with your spouse and then have a conversation about paying things off. If you have disposable income to do so, this will make the process of dividing debts far simpler. This is a particularly important strategy if you make less than your spouse, since a judge could divide your debts evenly, regardless of your earning capacity.
Make copies of your last three years’ tax returns, recent pay stubs, W-2s, bank statements, retirement account statements, and all other financial documents. You should also copy the deed of trust to any property you own, as well as the titles to your vehicles.
You might be surprised to find that you are not on the title to a piece of property or vehicle. It happens all the time, and without being on the title, you will have an uphill battle enforcing your ownership rights. Protect yourself by being added to anything prior to filing for divorce.
Understanding what you can afford and what you need to live is important prior to divorcing. It will help determine if you will need alimony to maintain your lifestyle.
Begin making a list of the property and belongings that you own. Everything from clothing to jewelry, from cookware to tools should be listed since it will all be divided later.
If you have children, consider whether you want full or joint custody and what an ideal custody or visitation arrangement might look like. While you might not get everything that you want, starting with a plan can improve your chances greatly.
The most important step you can take in preparing for a divorce is meeting with a divorce attorney prior to filing or making your intentions clear. To schedule a free consultation with the Law Office of Laurence J. Brock, call 909-466-7661 or contact us online through the form on this page.