How to prepare for divorce
The decision to divorce your spouse is never easy and can be emotionally overwhelming. Once the decision has been made, however, it is important that your negative emotions do not take the place of good judgment. If you have decided to divorce, it is important that you take steps to prepare and protect yourself before a single document is filed in court. Here are some tips steps to help you prepare for your divorce.
- Obtain and maintain your financial records: It is important to obtain copies of all your important financial records. Divorce is largely about the division of property. To ensure that all marital assets are accounted for, you will need to compile an accurate list of all your finances and support that list with documentation. Important financial documents include, but are not limited to, tax returns, payrolls stubs and all other evidence of income, banking information, financial statements, loan applications, stocks, bonds, brokerage statements, pensions, retirement accounts, wills, trusts, and documents reflecting any outstanding debts.
- Take an inventory: Divorce is not only about the division of finances, but also the division of physical and real property (such as homes, real estate, cars, furniture, jewelry, etc.). You need to identify your separate property from marital property (i.e. property acquired during the marriage). Separate property generally refers to property that you owned prior to the marriage; an inheritance received solely by you; or gifts. Unfortunately, things can often disappear once the divorce process starts, so document their existence by taking digital photographs and/or videos of everything and be sure to include a date stamp.
- Open a new safety deposit box or go to trusted family member: Once you have obtained copies of your important financial records and inventoried your personal property, you will want to keep that documentation somewhere safe and away from your soon-to-be ex-spouse. I generally recommend opening a safety deposit box, but you can always keep them with a trusted family member.
- Get a post-office box: If you hire a divorce attorney, your attorney will be sending your confidential documents and communications. Opening your own post office box will ensure that your mail will sit securely in a locked box that only you can access.This will ensure that only you will have access to confidential mail from your divorce attorney as well as your new credit card and bank statements (see below). Another benefit of having a post office box is that you will receive your mail a little faster, since you will not have to wait for your mail to be delivered by a postal carrier. This is crucial in the event your attorney requires a timely response.
- Open new bank accounts / start saving: Hopefully by now you followed the first step and acquired an accurate accounting of all of your finances. You will now want to take steps to protect your finances in the event your spouse chooses to clean out any joint bank accounts. You should open new checking and savings accounts in your name only and talk to your divorce attorney about withdrawing half the funds from any joint accounts. These new accounts will be necessary for depositing any withdrawn funds. Remember, divorce is expensive. Be frugal, start saving and document every dime you spend. You will need to account for those funds during settlement negotiations. If you spouse has started withdrawing funds, you should speak to your divorce attorney a.s.a.p.
- Establish a new lines of credit: Start applying for credit cards in your name only. Sometimes banks accounts and other liquid assets may be frozen during the divorce process. Establishing a good line of credit may assist you with day-to-day living expenses until those funds become available. Remember, be frugal. Divorce is an expensive process.
- Change beneficiaries / medical directives: Accidents can happen at any time. If you are going through a divorce, you may not want your soon-to-be ex-spouse benefiting from your life insurance policies.You also do not want your estranged spouse making medical decisions in the event you become mentally incapacitated. Change your named beneficiaries. Change your medical directives.
- Do not move out: Do not move out of the marital home without consulting a divorce attorney first. Moving out can negatively impact your interests in that property and can even effect your interest in custody of your children. Also remember that divorce is expensive. You may be on the hook for temporary mortgage payments, child support payments, alimony payments and legal fees. Adding rent to the mix will not help your financial situation.
- Consult with a divorce attorney: Even if choose not to hire an attorney to handle your divorce, you would be well advised to get as much information as possible before you discuss divorce with you spouse. There is a lot to know about divorce in Alabama. Actions you take now will ultimately impact the outcome of your divorce. You need to understand your options now, not later. For more information about how to prepare for divorce, contact The Yeatts Law Firm.