Simple Actions to Make a Divorce a Little Easier
If you are considering divorce, there are several steps you should take before filing a petition. Collect copies of all your financial documents so you can evaluate your financial situation. Search for these important papers in your file cabinet or safe deposit box. If you can’t find copies, contact your bank, brokerage firm, insurance agent and tax accountant for documents. Collect bank statements, insurance policies, house documents (including the mortgage), tax records, vehicle registrations, car loans, lists of valuable personal property, retirement accounts, funds at brokerage firms, pension plans, trust funds, business interests, loans you have made, money you owe and three years tax returns.
1. Find a Collaborative Attorney
Once you have copies of your financial records, find a qualified collaborative attorney who can advise you about your divorce. Ask your family, friends, therapist, financial advisors, business associates or your family attorney for recommendations. Another excellent source of information about divorce attorneys is the Collaborative Divorce Texas website. Experienced divorce professionals committed to the collaborative process are members of this statewide organization. Search each attorney’s website for their education, years licensed to practice in Texas and their experience in collaborative divorce. Check their professional background with the State Bar Associations for complaints or disciplinary actions filed against them.
2. Protect Your Credit
Once you have engaged a collaborative attorney, take steps to protect your credit. Both of you are jointly responsible for all debts while you are married. Consequently, you need to discover what credit cards are outstanding and active. The easy way to do this is to request a credit check from a national rating service. Review your credit check carefully and make certain all the information is correct. Note any delinquent accounts and pay particular attention to anything that seems unusual. If you find a credit card you didn’t know about, talk to your spouse and your attorney about it.
3. Hire Support Staff
If you anticipate tax issues during your divorce, contact a CPA to advise you about taxes. If you are experiencing issues during the divorce, consider seeing a personal counselor. Also, talk to close friends and family as a support group to help you through your divorce. Select friends who are good listeners, empathetic and sensible enough to stop you from making spur of the moment emotional decisions that might turn out to be a disaster. Ask your family and friends to help you and your children through the severe stresses over the coming months as the divorce progresses.
4. Search for Hidden Assets
Finding assets your spouse is hiding can be a time intensive task because you need to review credit card, checking account, saving account and brokerage account statements. Look for unusual purchases of jewelry or other expensive items, unexplained charges at hotels or airlines and unexplained withdrawals from savings or brokerage accounts. If you find unexpected or unexplained purchases, that does not necessarily mean your spouse is hiding assets or has a paramour. There may be an innocent explanation. But you need to know what is happening with your finances so discuss these items with your spouse so you are not surprised during the divorce.
5. Make a Budget
Review your expenses for the past year and develop a budget for your post-divorce household. Note what you currently spend on housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, vacations, medical and dental costs, school expenses, gifts, insurance, taxes, professional fees and miscellaneous items such as haircuts, toiletries, pocket money, subscriptions, cable and pet expenses. Then, estimate what your personal expenses will be when you are divorced and living separately.
6. Get Your Own Credit Card
If you don’t have a separate credit card in your own name, apply for one immediately. Once you decide to divorce, discuss with your attorney whether you should ask financial institutions to protect your assets from plunder by your spouse. For example, you might ask your bank to require two signatures for all significant purchases or withdrawals. This simple tactic can give you both peace of mind. Once you have done all these things, you are ready to make an intelligent decision about whether to divorce.