Your 4-Point Divorce Checklist
by: Sarah T. Starkey, Attorney
Divorce can be quite difficult from both an emotional standpoint, as well as a legal standpoint. A little planning on your part can help ease the stress of your divorce proceeding and possibly save you time and money. While each case is different, the following tips can help you get started.
1. Collect your statements. Often times one spouse has primarily handled the finances for the household, leaving the other spouse in the dark as to what actually comprises the marital estate. You can educate yourself, and assist your attorney, by gathering statements for your bills, bank accounts and other assets and debts. If your statements are electronic, you can call and request to have paper statements mailed to you for your credit card balances, mortgages, and auto loans. Don’t forget about your assets as well. Bank statements and retirement account statements are equally as important and can easily be obtained by making a phone call or by going on-line. You should be able to obtain statements for any accounts that are jointly held.
** Unless you have a prenuptial agreement, you should be aware that all of your debts and assets that you accumulated prior to your marriage will also be considered in your divorce proceeding. **
Your attorney can request financial documents through the discovery process, however, you can save time and legal fees by gathering as much information as possible on your own.
2. Open an individual bank account. Whether you have already filed for divorce or are considering filing for divorce, the sooner you can open up an individual bank account and transfer your direct deposit, the better. Some of my clients have had issues with spouses who have drained joint bank accounts. While there are legal remedies to account for these withdrawn funds, this process can take some time and may involve the expense of litigation or further discovery. By being proactive and opening a new bank account and transferring your direct deposit, you can avoid cash flow issues.
If you would like some help in managing your household finances and creating a budget, a great resource is www.mint.com .
3. Get emotional support. Because divorce can be a very stressful event, it can help for you to confide in a family member, friend, church, or therapist. Many of my clients have a confidant that they trust to help them manage the emotions that accompany a divorce. It is NEVER advised that a client use their children as a sounding board for their emotions during a divorce. This can have a devastating effect on the child.
4. Talk with your children. If possible, it is very important to work with your spouse and prepare together how the two of you wish to communicate your divorce to your children. Maintaining a good working relationship with your spouse is imperative for effective parenting of your children. There are several resources available to help you prepare to have this talk with your child, as well as how to co-parent for the years to come Visit UptoParents.org for some tips.
These are just a few general guidelines that will help you prepare for divorce. Each person and situation is unique. As you consider filing for divorce, be sure to consult with a family law professional. Look for an attorney that has the experience to handle your specific needs such as complex assets or custody disputes with compassion and skill.