Divorce is a terrible thing to contemplate. Nevertheless, if it looks like a divorce might be in your near future, you need to be prepared. You may rest assured that if YOU see it
coming – so does your spouse. He or she may well be taking steps to prepare!
There are steps you should take to be prepared if you see a divorce coming. The following list is far from comprehensive – but if you complete these tasks, you will be ahead of the game:
- Make Personal Notes: You are sure that you will remember all that you need to when the time comes – but under the stress of an actual divorce, memory flees. Make sure you write
about specific incidents and patterns of any kind of abuse, etc. Note your contribution even if not monetary contributions. Contributions of a homemaker,
parent, household administrator, etc. are all important even if they did not directly contribute to the family’s finances. Also keep good notes concerning any financial contributions you have made to
the family. The more information – the better.
- Make Financial Notes: Your notes concerning the family’s finances, lists of assets, debts, income, and expenses are important for your lawyer. Tracking assets such as IRAs,
property, insurance policies, degrees and licenses, other kinds of investments, real estate are all important. Keep a listing of passwords and safety deposit box numbers. Debts are
also important: keep lists of any money owed to other parties such as credit cards, auto loans, promissory notes, unpaid taxes, student loans, home equity loans and other like debts. Keep track of
income from such common sources as salaries, etc. but also from business distributions, rental payments, interest, capital gains, etc.
- Collect Documents: Marriage is a life partnership, but it is just as much an economic partnership. You should collect copies of all records affecting the
finances of the family. Try to obtain copies of any: bank statements, credit card statements, mutual fund and other portfolios, brokerage account statements, mortgages, mortgage applications, tax
returns, pensions and retirement fund documents, insurance policies, wills, receipts and warranties for significant items, loan applications, legal documents, financial documents medical records, and
employee benefit books and records. Credit card records can be extremely important if you think your spouse is not declaring all of his or her income.
- Rainy Day Fund: You need to start setting aside money. When you leave a marriage and establish a new home, you may well need a significant amount of cash for deposits, etc. You
will also need money to pay your lawyer and other fees associated with your divorce. Money has a tendency to disappear from joint accounts. Therefore, don’t save money in a joint account, but
establish a new account for yourself and make sure that your spouse does not have access to it. It can be a good idea to make this new account joint with someone you trust. Maintain good records
concerning money that goes in and out of this account, and if you can, take out new credit cards in your name only.
- Get a Lawyer: Even before you have decided to divorce your spouse, you need to find a good lawyer to give you advice. Make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyer, and that the
lawyer is sensitive to your needs. Your lawyer needs to communicate with you in a clear and understandable manner, and must not be so busy, or self important, that he or she does not listen to you as
an individual. Trying to find a lawyer that does a lot of divorce work is also a good idea. Although your family lawyer may well be able to do a good job for you, if you use a lawyer that works in
divorce and family work, you are much more likely to receive good advice. Before you actually file, get a written contract, and make sure you understand it. Don’t feel that you cannot ask your lawyer
to change items in the contract. Finally, be sure that your lawyer understands that you want to make the final decisions in your case, and before you sign anything, make sure you read it carefully.
Under no circumstances should you use the same lawyer as your spouse.