Family Law Articles

17 Smart Ways to Protect Yourself Before You File for Divorce

A Divorce is a major undertaking.  Just as with any major undertaking, you should prepare beforehand.  Here are 19 steps you should take before filing for Divorce.

SMART WAY #1:  Save up liquid funds.  You will need to save money to hire a lawyer.  Also, you may need to move out of your home, in which case you will need a deposit of first and last month’s rent.

SMART WAY #2:  Retain an experienced, knowledgeable Divorce lawyer.  If you have an electrical problem, you call an electrician.  If you do not, you might get electrocuted.  If you are buying a house, hire a realtor and a real estate lawyer.  If you’re considering Divorce, find an experienced, knowledgeable and trained Divorce lawyer.  A skilled family law lawyer is a professional trained to understand the process, know the obstacles and guide you as smoothly as possible through the Divorce process.  Once you hire your lawyer, keep in touch with him or her always.

SMART WAY #3:  Hire a good CPA who can advise you on the tax implications of Divorce.

SMART WAY #4:  Evaluate joint bank accounts.  Your spouse might simply take all the money in your bank account, leaving you with no cash.  This can be a real problem because even if you have lots of assets, they will not be in liquid form.

You have three options when dealing with a joint bank account.  The first option is simply to do nothing.  The second option is to take half the money in the bank account and put it in a separate bank account for yourself.  The third option is to take all the money in the joint bank account and put that in a separate bank account for yourself.

Which option you should choose depends on your personal situation and on the personality of your spouse.  Normally, taking all the money in the bank account will not be to your advantage, as it will make you look bad.  In these circumstances, simply taking half the money in the joint bank account may make the most sense.  Regardless of which you choose to do, the main point is to consider the issue carefully.

SMART WAY #5:  Set up a bank account that is in your name only.  Then only you will have access to what it is there.

SMART WAY #6:  Evaluate joint credit cards, lines of credit and other liabilities.  If your spouse goes on a spending spree, you could be liable for part or all of the money that he or she spends.  You can protect yourself by canceling all joint credit cards, lines of credit and other joint liabilities.  Also, make sure you keep meticulous track of your bills and debts.

SMART WAY #7:  Gather and organize financial records and put them in a safe place.  Make sure you know exactly what you have financially in terms of cash, assets and real estate.  This includes making an inventory of valuables such as safety deposit box contents, jewelry, artwork and silverware.  Keep copies of everything in a safe place. Make sure you have all of your wills and trusts on hand for review.  If you suspect that your spouse may be hiding assets, review all mail coming into your house (but don’t open it) and make a list of the sender and return addresses, especially if the mail is from a financial institution.

SMART WAY #8:  Sever any property held in joint tenancy with your spouse.  Otherwise, if you pass away, your spouse will own your home, contrary to your wishes.

SMART WAY #9:  Make sure you have exclusive access to at least one credit card in case of emergency.

SMART WAY #10:  Do NOT change the beneficiaries on any insurance policies, life, health or otherwise.  When the Divorce is filed, the Court typically will grant orders to ensure that security for support and benefits coverage is in place. Wait until the Court allows you to make changes or at least review the possibility of any changes with your family law lawyer.

SMART WAY #11:  Keep a journal.  Having evidence to support your case is critical.  It is important to keep a journal of the important events relating to your Divorce.  These include interactions with your spouse and children.  When making decisions about children, the Court’s guiding principle is the child’s best interests.  Thus, when writing about your children, it is important to do so from the child’s point of view.  For instance, if your spouse is late in returning the children from an access visit, instead of writing about how terrible your spouse is to do that, write about what effect the lateness had on the children.  Did it mean that they got to bed late and could not concentrate the next day at school because they were tired?

SMART WAY #12:  DO NOT worry about your spouse’s reaction.  It most certainly will be negative.  When you accept the fact that you cannot control your spouse’s reaction, you will find it much easier to move ahead with the task at hand.

SMART WAY #13:  Anticipate your post-Divorce financial condition.  If necessary, go back to school or seek employment.

SMART WAY #14:  If you have already moved out, make sure that you have adequate accommodations in your new home or apartment for your kids.

SMART WAY #15:  Take good care of yourself.  A Divorce is one of the most stressful situations that you will ever go through.  You must make sure that you are in as good shape as possible — both emotionally and physically — before you start the Divorce process.

SMART WAY #16:  Establish a good support system.  Your Divorce will be one of the most stressful events in your lifetime.  By having the help of friends, family or a counselor, you are better equipped to get through this difficult process.

SMART WAY #17:  Learn the basics of Divorce law.  Knowledge is power.  The better you understand the legal process and the Divorce laws, the more reasonable your expectations will be.

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