Steps to Take Before You File for a Divorce
Most couples see a divorce coming months or even years before they call a lawyer. The period leading up to the divorce filing is when you should take practical steps that will give you a sure footing and protect you in your new life. Money, children, and “the talk” are the issues that are likely to be on the mind of anyone contemplating divorce.
Start with finances
Financial security always is a major issue, especially if one spouse has been dependent on the other spouse’s income. To the extent possible, you should begin separating your financial affairs. This includes opening a separate bank account, using this new account if you have an automatic payroll deposit, applying for a credit card in your own name, making changes to health or life insurance, changing beneficiaries, and setting up a post office box to protect your privacy. Once a divorce is filed, there are likely to be certain limitations on opening and closing accounts, making changes to insurance, and transferring funds without the court’s permission, so it is important to think ahead on these matters.
While you may open these accounts without informing your soon-to-be-ex, eventually you will have to reveal everything about your finances as part of the divorce process, including any new accounts or transfers of money. Do not use these new accounts to hide or divert assets. The court will require full disclosure of your finances and any attempt at deception will weaken your legal position and could subject you to contempt of court. Judges almost always will punish a party who acts in bad faith.
Start collecting information about family finances, including tax records, investment accounts, trusts, wills, property records, and anything that affects your financial position. This includes information on a family business, which will be subject to the equitable position of assets you have accumulated in the marriage. While you may not be able to collect all the records you need if the other spouse manages financial matters, anything you find will give your attorney and accountant a head start in determining how financial support and the division of assets and liabilities will be handled as the divorce plays out.
If you have a prenuptial agreement, you will want to have your attorney examine its impact on the divorce and whether there are grounds for a successful challenge. A prenup cannot be overturned just because one party has buyer’s remorse but changing circumstances or an agreement that was not entered into properly sometimes can be set aside. Rather than go through litigation, couples often negotiate changes to the terms of a prenup, and your lawyer can advise you on realistic expectations.
It is all about the children
Have a support system in place for your children before you file for divorce. This will be a trying emotional time for you, and friends and family members can help both you and the children come through it. Consult with a family therapist on how to tell the children about divorce and to anticipate the questions they typically ask. Some children come through a divorce unscathed, and others take years to process it. Have counselors ready if needed.
Make sure you are spending time with your children in the time leading up to the divorce. Do not miss soccer games or recitals and solidify your relationship in any way you can. You want to be in a position where you can ask coaches, teachers and nannies for affidavits that attest to your attentiveness as a parent. Unfortunately, custody issues sometimes get ugly; do not give the other side any ammunition.
At some point, you have to lay your cards on the table and tell your spouse the marriage is over. Breakups come with and without drama, and most people know what to expect. Think about how your spouse will respond and prepare accordingly. If you have made a firm decision to move on, we recommend keeping it simple. This is not the time to argue about alimony, temporary financial support, child support and custody, or who keeps the lake house. “My attorney will be in touch,” is all you need to say. If you already are living separately, a letter from your attorney may be the appropriate first step.
Things to avoid during divorce
Do not lash out at your spouse on social media. It is best to shut down your social media accounts for the duration of the divorce and wipe them clean. There are so many pictures and comments on social media that can be misconstrued and used against you in a contentious divorce. Take care to avoid weaponizing custody arrangements or placing undue financial stress on a spouse. As a rule, act in good faith and try not to let your emotions get the best of you. Work with your lawyer to make the process as efficient as possible so you can get on with your life.
Boyd Collar Nolen Tuggle & Roddenbery welcomes the opportunity to assist you in your divorce. For more information about how Boyd Collar Nolen Tuggle & Roddenbery can help you, please contact us at 770.953.4300 today.