If you are considering divorce, there are several steps you can take before announcing it to your spouse. These steps help you explore your options and consider alternatives, protecting your best interests. They also help you plan for the future. In Maryland, divorce typically takes six months to a year, depending on the circumstances. In some cases, the divorce can drag on even longer. Getting your proverbial ducks in a row just makes sense.
1. Considering Divorce? Talk to a Divorce Lawyer
Talking to a divorce lawyer is one of the best first steps you can take. It is an opportunity to gather information about the laws and facts in your case. Every divorce is different. Even if you have divorced before, or have a good friend or family member who recently got divorced, the facts in your case, or the applicable laws in your case may be different for a multitude of reasons.
Rather than guess how your own divorce may play out, talk to an experienced divorce lawyer. They can provide you with a much clearer picture of how things might work in your particular case. A divorce lawyer can also provide information about things you may not have considered, including educational expenses for the children, health care coverage, retirement packages, and types of alimony you may qualify for (or not!). An attorney can also provide you with a list of documents they will need to start the divorce proceedings.
2. Considering Divorce? Get Your Paperwork in Order
Divorces don’t just happen. Instead, divorce attorneys need certain paperwork to allow them to properly do their jobs. Every divorce must address the division of both assets and debts. If there are minor children, child custody and child support must also be addressed. Alimony may or may not be on the table, depending on the circumstances of the marriage and the parties.
Just because an asset is in the name of only one person, this does not necessarily mean that person will retain some or all of the asset. For example, just because both cars are in the husband’s name doesn’t mean he will keep both of the cars. Just because the wife has a retirement account in her name only doesn’t mean she retains that asset alone. A divorce attorney will need tax returns, bank statements, investment statements, a list of properties owned, documentation of other assets, marriage certificates, and a copy of any pre or post nuptial agreements. They will also need information on health care coverage. Gathering this paperwork ahead of time ensures you have access to it later. This can save you time and heartache, as well as significant legal fees, if you later have to litigate the issue of disclosure during discovery.
3. Considering Divorce? Take Stock of Your Social Media and Internet Accounts
As a married couple, you may be familiar with each other’s social media accounts. You may also have easy access to each other’s bank accounts, shopping websites, and email accounts. Take some time to consider what accounts you don’t want your spouse to have ready access to during or after your divorce. Change the passwords to those accounts immediately. If you have accounts that automatically insert your password, such as bank accounts, consider changing your settings. You may wish to set up a new email account to ensure your privacy when communicating with your divorce lawyer.
4. Considering Divorce? Review Your Finances
Make certain you have a clear view of your finances, as a couple and as an individual. Review all bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, etc. Confirm balances owned on the house, the cars, your student loan debts, and the like. You want as complete a financial picture as possible before initiating divorce proceedings.
Consider your credit score and credit history. If you do not have any credit history in your own name, now is the time to start. You may also want to open checking and savings accounts in your name only if you do not have them already.
5. Considering Divorce? Update Your Estate Documents
If you have a living will, power of attorney for health care, or a health care directive, consider updating this document. If you don’t have such a document, get one. That is, of course, unless you want the person you are considering divorcing to be in charge of making your health care decisions if you become incapacitated. Additionally, considering updating your will or estate plan to reflect your current wishes regarding the passing on of your property in the event you die. Again, if you do not have a will or trust, consider getting one. While this may seem morbid, from a legal standpoint these are necessary steps. As long as you are legally married, your spouse has certain legal rights of decision making and inheritance, unless you have documents that provide alternatives.
Considering Divorce? Contact Us!
If you are considering divorce, contact the office of Fait & DiLima to discuss your situation. The lawyers at our firm share over 50 years of divorce and family law experience. We work to help our clients find a path through their divorce case with as little conflict as necessary. We offer a complete range of services, from mediation to collaborative divorce, from negotiated settlement to litigation, where necessary. Call the office today to schedule an appointment at (301) 251-0100.