Nearly 40 percent of all marriages end in divorce. While we always encourage couples to try and work through any issues they may have, unfortunately, some problems cannot be solved so easily. It goes without saying that going through divorce is stressful. In addition to the anxiety the individuals separating experience, their family members have their own level of stress and anxiety as well. Preparing and protecting yourself and family members throughout the divorce process is important. Here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself.
Hire an Experienced Divorce Lawyer.
A divorce lawyer can guide you through the process and work with the courts on your behalf. Laws vary from state to state, and the correspondence between parties is time consuming and complicated. A large amount of information must be considered during this time and most people do not have the expertise or understanding on how to handle these matters. For this reason, it is important to consult with and hire the right attorney. An attorney will walk you through this process and help protect your rights.
10 Steps to Follow in Divorce Proceedings
There are certain steps you can work on while you work with a lawyer.
- Separate Non-Marital Assets
Non-marital assets are the property considered by the courts as belonging to one spouse or the other and are not subject to equitable distribution. These assets include:
- Inherited property
- Items brought to the marriage
- Gifts given specifically to one person as opposed to the married couple
- Proceeds from personal injury judgment or settlement
- Create Your Own Credit History
For those who depend on their spouse’s paycheck to live then it is important to start building your own good credit score. Acquiring assets such as a credit card, new car and even mortgages will require a credit history.
- Keep Track of Your Financial Records
Many couples have varied financial holdings ranging from checking to saving accounts. These accounts may be joint or separate accounts. Keeping track of all accounts is vital because you will need them when divorce proceedings begins. Many times, this kind of evidence can conveniently disappear.
- Close Joint Accounts
If divorce is imminent then be proactive and think of things that may cause additional financial burdens. First, examine all the joint accounts, because there is a chance that your spouse will withdraw money. Second, if possible freeze or close your joint accounts. Third, when you withdraw money, keep a detailed records and be prepared to account for it in the divorce process.
- If you have children, consider staying in the family home.
Moving out of the home too soon may impact custody later. However, it may not be possible to remain in the home, due to increased tension between you and your spouse. Do as much as you can to minimize fighting in front of the children and if it becomes necessary to leave the situation, then leave. As an alternative, consider “time-sharing” the family home with your spouse until the custody and divorce is finalized.
- Do not allow your spouse to take the children and leave.
Your spouse has no more right to take the children from their family home than you do. Make sure that your spouse knows that if he or she wants to leave, then they are free to go, but the children stay. Again, as an alternative, consider “time-sharing” the family home with your spouse until the custody and divorce is settled.
- Safeguard personal papers and make copies of important records.
You should locate and gather all of your personal records, such as your birth certificate, diplomas, and all other personal documents. For jointly-owned records (i.e., bank statements, real estate records, titles, deeds, tax returns, and W2 statements), make two copies of everything, and give one copy to your spouse. Store your copies in a safe location.
- Make a record of all marital property.
The best way to record your marital property is by making a video. If possible, make the video with your spouse. Inventory the entire home and its contents. Pull items out where they can be seen, and open up drawers so the contents are visible. Make sure the date function is turned on, so the date is visible when the video is viewed. Store the video somewhere safe. If objects “disappear” from the family home, you will have a solid record of what is missing.
- Do not sign anything.
Many people make the mistake of signing papers or preliminary agreements, which later causes property and custody battles to be decided against them. Signing something that has not been viewed by your attorney can cause problems that your attorney cannot modify or change. So do not do it! When your spouse wants you to sign something tell him or her that your attorney has to view it first.
- If any domestic violence occurs, call the police.
Do not allow your spouse to commit any domestic violence against you or your children. If it does happen, then call the police immediately. Insist that an officer come to your residence, and file a report. Contact your attorney’s office after the report is filled. A restraining order should be considered if you fear that you or your children may be subjected to further acts of domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Contact Chris Wynn of Miller & Wynn, P.C. Attorneys at Law if you are going through a divorce 770-942-2720.