Contemplating Divorce? Five Things You Must Do Today!

1. TODAY! Take a complete Video inventory of your home.

Once a complaint for divorce is filed, people become very territorial. It is not uncommon for spouses, once they know a divorce is imminent, to remove items from the home, secreting them away to preserve things that are financial or sentimental value. What was once “ours” quickly becomes “mine”…”

At the same time, there are items in your home about which you have completely forgotten. You need to get a complete, detailed inventory of everything in your house, ideally by way of a narrated video. Live images will allow you to provide a complete and irrefutable picture down the road should things go missing;

2. TODAY! Make copies of all financial records.

Before you file for divorce, you need to have as much information as possible on your financial history and current financial standing. This means anything that pertains to you and your spouse’s income, assets, and liabilities. Make copies of three years worth of all tax returns, bank records, credit card accounts, mortgage documents, loan applications, investment accounts, retirement plans, stocks, bonds, and life insurance policies. If you have been the recipients of generous gifting from family members throughout the course of the marriage, retrieve and copy any documents that would evidence the same. If you and/or your spouse brought significant assets or debt into the marriage, again, copy anything that would document that. You also want to be sure to gather as much information as possible with respect to your spouse’s earnings (at least three years worth), particularly if he is self employed;

3. TODAY! Establish a rainy day fund.

You need to set aside cash that will allow you to retain an attorney and meet your expenses for the first few months after the divorce is filed. This is not advice to attempt to hide money but an explanation of the fact that once things are set into motion you may not have any access to cash and you will need it.

Once a divorce is filed, an automatic restraining order on assets goes into effect. This means that you are precluded from liquidating assets, transferring funds, concealing monies, etc. absent permission from the Court, which puts many people at a disadvantage in terms of paying for attorney fees, meeting living expenses, tending to the children’s needs, etc. For example, if your spouse is the primary breadwinner and you intend on asking him to leave the home while you remain there with the children, you may be left in a position of not receiving any contribution from your spouse until such time as he or she is ordered to do so by the Court, which may not happen for months. On the flip side, if you’re asked or in some cases mandated to leave the home, you will need the ability to establish a residence elsewhere, pay first and last month’s rent, buy furniture, etc. Perhaps you could take a cash advance on a credit card or open a new credit card in your name alone. Somehow, someway, you need to plan for a period of time where you may need to be entirely self sufficient;

4. TODAY! Make an appointment with an attorney.

My practice offers an initial consultation for which you will never be charged unless you agree to retain us and we begin working on your behalf. Before you file for divorce, preferably before you even mention separating to your spouse, you need to have some basic questions addressed by a professional. Can you afford to ask your spouse to leave the home or should you voluntarily leave? What kind of child support would you be entitled to receive or required to pay? Can you expect to retain assets that you brought into the marriage or will your spouse be entitled to one half? Are you likely to be awarded custody of your children? How much of a retainer will your attorney require? Get these answers before you initiate a divorce action. If you don’t have a feasible plan in place, the course of events may lead down a path you never in your wildest dreams considered;

5. TODAY! Develop a support system.

Talk to your parents, your siblings, or your best friend; someone who you can categorically trust. Let them know the direction you’re heading and tell them that you’ll need their support. If you don’t have a strong support system, or even if you do, you may also benefit from seeking some professional therapeutic help. Find a qualified mental health counselor and make an appointment today. Talk through your plan for the future and your reasons for contemplating divorce. Be sure that you are not making a rash decision; think it through, talk it out, and think it through some more. If you decide that divorce is the answer, establishing a relationship with a therapist to whom you can return as needed may be a life saver.