When a marriage is headed for a breakdown, one spouse often comes to that realization sooner than the other. If you are faced with this situation, there are some simple steps you can take to protect your rights and interests. These steps can improve your position as you enter into the divorce process:
Make copies of your financial statements and compile a list of your assets and debts – Include copies of bank statements, investment account statements, tax returns, and credit card statements, plus your assets and debts. A complete accounting of these items will be necessary to properly divide your community assets and debts. Keep this list in a secure location such as a safe deposit box or at work.
Make a list of your current household expenses – Including your monthly mortgage or rent payment, utilities, insurance, food, clothing and incidental expenses. This will be helpful in determining the temporary support level.
If necessary, arrange for another place to live – Some couples maybe able to coexist under the same roof during divorce, but for others it is impossible.
Don’t transfer community assets without talking to your spouse – Doing so could be construed as marital misconduct by the judge, putting you at a disadvantage when it comes to property division and alimony orders.
Don’t run up debts – You may be tempted to purchase a few necessities or to “punish” your spouse by making credit card purchases, but you could end up having to pay those debts yourself.
You may wish to change your passwords for your separately-held financial accounts, social media, email, etc. – This will protect your privacy should your spouse wish to retaliate against you by gaining access to these. You may also want to get a post office box so your mail cannot be intercepted.
Think about how to tell your children about the divorce – Your lawyer can provide some advice about this important step. You may also wish to look to your minister for guidance. There are also resources online or at the public library concerning this subject.
Start a file for all of the paperwork -The divorce process will generate a large number of documents that you should retain.
And the most important thing you need to do is:
Speak with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible – This person can explain the divorce process, take action to protect your rights and begin the process that will eventually enable you to start the next phase of your life.