14 Critical Steps to Protect Yourself when Contemplating your Divorce.
Divorce is stressful and often traumatic. Preparation can help you avoid common emotional mistakes and self-inflicted damage.
BEFORE STARTING DIVORCE
1. HAVE “THE TALK” WITH YOUR SPOUSE
o Think about what you’ll say. Be calm and discuss your decision in a non-confrontational tone and setting. Be prepared to leave home immediately if the discussion gets heated. Have an overnight bag and a place to stay. Seek professional assistance to advise you if you are in a violent or abusive relationship.
§ You should be aware of the location of the closest domestic violence shelter in case of emergency and/or abuse.
o If you have children, make sure to discuss all the topics regarding your kids. How you intend to tell them is essential to discuss. How are you going to describe the problem and how will you help them handle the decision emotionally? With whom will the children live? What about visitation? Talk about who will cover certain expenses for your children.
2. A PLACE TO LIVE, A BUDGET AND OTHER DETAILS FOR SEPARATING.
o Prepare a budget of your monthly, weekly and yearly expenditures to ensure you can manage your living arrangements. If you do not have a job, it is entirely possible that you will need to get a job—do not simply rely upon or assume that you will receive aid. If you are primary earner, be sure you understand what your obligations for your kids or your former spouse might be once a divorce is final.
3. GET A POST OFFICE BOX AND A NEW G-MAIL (EMAIL) ACCOUNT
o If you are moving to another home, obtain a post office box and change billing and mailing addresses for relevant accounts – you do not want to lose any paperwork.
o Start a new email account and/or change all passwords. If you and your spouse shared with an email account, create a new e-mail account to communicate with your lawyer and to link with any online accounts. Do not “hack” into your partner’s email account – appropriate channels must be followed to access your partner’ email.
4. YOU SHOULD SET ASIDE FUNDS TO COVER LEGAL AND OTHER
o Often, one spouse was the primary wage-earner while the other primarily managed the household. Those spouses that did not earn an independent income often cannot access funds to move ahead with their divorce because the wage-earner controls all access to the family funds. This places a non-working spouse at a tremendous disadvantage in terms of hiring professionals to navigate the divorce as well as having sufficient money for day-to-day living expenses. The result is a financial crisis that could compel agreeing to a one-sided or unfair divorce settlement. Beware that divorces often take much longer and cost much more than anticipated, so plan accordingly.
STARTING THE DIVORCE
5. HIRE A LAWYER
o Find at least three lawyers. Research their backgrounds and interview them to determine the perfect fit. Keep in mind your lawyer isn’t a therapist. Their job will be to safeguard your legal rights and zealously advocate on your behalf. You should not rely on them to provide advice in your personal life.
6. FORM A SUPPORT TEAM
o An effective support team should include family, friends, therapists, counselors and your attorney. Each member should be advised of your decision to proceed with divorce and informed that you will likely rely on them for support, advice or just a friendly ear throughout the process Consult with these team members as needed and as appropriate before making significant decisions relating to actions or conduct during the divorce.
7. COLLECT & ORGANIZE YOUR FINANCIAL PAPERWORK & GET A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT
o Gather financial documents including bank account statements, tax returns (personal & business), retirement account statements, titles, deeds, credit card statements.
o Sometimes a spouse may use your credit without your knowledge, therefore it makes sense to obtain a free copy your credit report to understand obligations for which you might be liable. Please note that you can contact the credit reporting agency to resolve any disputes. It is critical for you to monitor your credit report to make sure that your spouse does not generate irresponsible debt for which you could be liable.
8. ESTABLISH YOUR CREDIT
o You will need money during your divorce! There is a possibility that your spouse will no longer support you and until the court intervenes, you will need access to money. Obtaining a credit card in your name will help you establish your credit rating, and may help with the daily living expenses.
DURING THE DIVORCE
9. OPEN A NEW CHECKING AND SAVINGS ACCOUNT
o You should set up new checking and savings accounts as close to the commencement of the divorce as possible. These accounts should be established at a different bank than all other joint accounts (marital) with your spouse.
10. GET SOME SUPPORT
o Speak with your family and friends and discuss your divorce, whether contemplated or ongoing. Religious organizations often provide support groups for singles, divorcees, and children whose parents are going through a divorce. Think about a therapist, if you have not already seen one, who can help you with the psychological effect of separation.
11. IT’S OK TO BE SINGLE FOR A WHILE
o Don’t begin a new relationship. Put this element of your life on hold until after the paperwork is complete. An extramarital relationship could become a point of controversy throughout the divorce proceedings.
12. CREATE A DIVORCE FOLDER AND AN ONLINE DROPBOX ACCOUNT
o Try to keep it organized so you can find documents for your emotional, financial or legal specialists. It could become rather voluminous based on the duration, issues, and contentiousness of your legal proceedings. During this challenging time, your world will probably be simpler if you keep all the paperwork at a place where you can find it fast.
13. PERSONAL ITEMS
o If you’re leaving your home, which is usually NOT recommended unless you or your children are in physical danger, take any personal things like jewelry photographs or papers that have meaning. In case your split up becomes heated, or already is, you may not be able to get to these things for some time, if ever. Make an inventory of the items left at the house and in your possession. You should take an inventory of anything that you consider to be your personal property.
14. YOU MAY WANT TO CHANGE YOUR WILL AND MEDICAL DIRECTIVES/LIVING WILL
o You may longer want your soon-to-be ex-spouse making medical decisions on your behalf. You also may not want him or her to inherit all of your assets should you die before your divorce is final. You should consult with your attorney as to what options are available to you.
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