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Divorce Planning: Steps to Take Before Filing for Divorce

on May 26, 2017 in Divorce

Divorce planning may seem odd, but it can assist you as you go through the process.  Divorce can be a stressful process even in the best of circumstances.  Unfortunately, not every couple’s divorce reflects these “best circumstances.”  Because there can be hard feelings, and because we can’t control the conduct of those around us, it is a good idea to take certain steps before filing for divorce.  Taking these steps can make the process much easier, and allow things to go more smoothly.

Take a Financial Inventory

Income and Assets

Divorce planning starts with your taxes.  If you don’t have a copy of the taxes you and your spouse have filed for the past several years, contact your accountant to obtain copies.  Additionally, document all bank accounts, both checking and savings accounts.  This includes account numbers, as well as the name(s) on each account (even if the account is only in the name of one of the parties).  Note also the balance of each account.  Also note any “automatic payments” including mortgage, insurance, or student loan payments that come out each month.

Your financial inventory should also include deferred compensation accounts, retirement accounts, health savings accounts, etc.  Do you own stocks or bonds?  Make a list of your portfolio assets, including, if you can, copies of the most recent statements, which should reflect account numbers and current value.  Take note of any property owned.  Of course, this includes your residence, but it also includes your beach house, boats, cars, recreational vehicles, etc.

Income should also be documented in as much detail as possible.  This includes annual salary, bonuses, and commissions.  It also includes dividends on stocks, interest on CD’s, rental income, and any other income you and your family reasonably might expect on a regular or predictable basis.

Debts and Expenses

You should also carefully review your debts as part of your divorce planning.  This includes the mortgage on the house, any auto loans, student loan debt, credit card debt, and any money owed to friends or family.  The more detail you can compile about the total amount of debt one or both of you owes, the better.

Finally, carefully document regular expenses.  This includes, of course, monthly mortgage payments, day care costs, regular transportation expenses, household bills, etc.

The purpose of a financial inventory is to provide a starting point for your attorney. This document simply provides as clear a snapshot as possible of the total universe of your and your spouse’s financial situation.  As such, you should include everything you can think of.  This includes debts or assets that you believe only belong to one of you.

Evaluate Your Possessions and Your Personal Situation

If your spouse is vindictive, or if you feel that your spouse may act in an immature manner upon learning of your desire to divorce, you may want to be proactive about your possessions.  You may, for example, consider putting your grandmother’s china in a safe place.  You might want to have a trusted friend hold cherished photos for safe keeping.  Note:  this is not to suggest you should conceal property from your spouse.  Under no circumstances should you hide or conceal assets.  Rather, this advice is offered for those who have a spouse who may seek to destroy property (regardless of financial or personal value) in an attempt to hurt a divorcing spouse.  The idea is only to keep the cherished property safe until the parties decide how the property will be divided.  Make sure to carefully document any and all property you move to a safer location.

Establish Your Own Credit History

Even in this day and age, all too many people, (most, but not all, women) rely on their spouse’s credit and credit history.  If you do not have a credit card in your own name, consider getting one prior to filing for divorce.  Having your own credit history, and your own credit, will be essential to your future.  It is difficult, for example, to rent an apartment without a fair to good credit score.  Similarly, you may encounter difficulty buying a car without an established history of responsible credit use.

 If You Have Children, Consider Keeping a Journal

Many couples find they are able to come to agreement about child custody without litigation or even difficulty.  Unfortunately, sometimes couples cannot come to an agreement about parenting time.  When this happens, the court may step in to make decisions about parenting time.  Consequently, it is a good idea to have clear documentation about the nature and quality of the time you spend with the children.  For the weeks (or even months) before the divorce proceedings begin, document not only the time you spend with the children, but also other activities.  This could include school events, sports or other after school activities, doctor’s visits, etc.

Interview Attorneys to Find One That is Best for You

During divorce proceedings, it is critical you trust your divorce attorney. Sometimes, in the emotional storm, the parties lose perspective.  It is critical to have an attorney you can rely on.  Sometimes, your attorney may gently point out when you have lost sight of the best interests of the children.  Other times, your attorney will help you refocus on what you have previously said is important.  Additionally, you should know different attorneys have different philosophies about how to approach divorce cases.  During such a personal proceeding, it is important to hire an attorney who shares your beliefs about how to approach the case.

If You Are Considering a Divorce

If you are considering a divorce, contact the attorneys at Fait & DiLima to discuss the facts and circumstances of your case.  While the idea of a divorce may be new to you, our attorneys have over 50 years of combined experience handling family law matters.  We are happy to meet with you in our Rockville or Frederick offices.  Contact the family law attorneys at Fait & DiLima today.

 

Additional Reading:

Documents You Should Update After Your Divorce