What’s love got to do with it? Based on divorce statistics, love has nothing to do with the Spring. The Spring Season is known as “Divorce Season” throughout legal circles. But why? Simply put, many couples are just waiting for the winter holidays to pass, and for their tax refund to arrive. They don’t want to spend the holidays answering questions about where their spouse is; it’s easier on the children to wait; and there is never extra money around Christmas to hire a divorce attorney, unless you or your spouse just received that big year-end bonus you were expecting. Regardless of the reason, Spring can be nothing but a second-hand emotion.
Preparation is a key component when filing for divorce. Here are 10 crucial tips to consider in anticipation of divorce:
“Who is going to pay for what” until the divorce is final?
Try to have a conversation with your spouse about joint bills, child support and marital expenses. The water bill isn’t going to pay itself.
“Who is going to live where” after the divorce is final?
While the divorce is pending? It is important to analyze all financial consequences when making this decision. Who is moving out? Who is staying in the marital residence? If you are renting, are both parties on the lease? Will the landlord revise the lease if one spouse moves out? Do you need to take your name off any utility accounts or transfer them into your own name? Homeowners have even more questions to ask. Are both spouses listed on the mortgage(s)? Is the home jointly-titled? When was the last appraisal (not property tax assessment)? How much equity is in the home? Are there any liens on the property aside from the mortgage(s)?
Do you want to sell the home?
Is it ready to be put on the market? What repairs are necessary? You need to get bids or quotes for any repairs. If you want to keep the home, but your spouse is on the mortgage(s) too, can you refinance the balance of the mortgage(s) into your own name? It is recommended that you contact lenders to prepare for a refinance. Will you be able to pay all the household expenses yourself plus the mortgage(s)? If there is no agreement on who will live in the house or whether the house will be sold, then dig in your heels and stay put in the home until it is figured out. You can do it.
If you have children, then you will need a written parenting time schedule in place before you relocate. If you cannot agree on parenting time, then you take a huge risk of not getting the children when you want once you move. There is no guarantee of when you will see or talk to your children; it will all be in the other parent’s control until you go to court. You should request parenting time on a regular basis and contact your children at reasonable times even if it involves contacting the other parent to get them on the phone. Depending on your financial situation, you may be expected to pay for some of the children’s expenses or pay money directly to the other parent as a form of child support. Any payments you have make on behalf of your children, whether individually or to the other parent, need to be documented. Family law can be tricky. Make your life easier and keep receipts or copy of checks for everything you pay until the divorce is final.
CHANGE PASSWORDS. This is important.
Anything with a password needs to be changed: email, bank accounts, credit cards, loans, retirement/investment accounts, utility bills, employee access accounts, cell phone account, social media pages, etc. Also enable security settings on your cell phone and personal computer by setting a unique passcode to gain access to these devices.
Start to separate your bank accounts.
Open an individual account that is in your name only. If you have a joint account with your spouse that is used to pay bills, then you need to discuss with your spouse (and/or divorce attorney) how to separate your incomes or direct deposits to ensure all of your bills are getting paid.
Gather all financial documents possible.
You will need everything. Tax returns, W-2’s, 1099’s, bank statements, credit card statements, real estate deeds, mortgage statements, loan statements, student loans, utility bills, medical bills, cell phone bills, auto insurance, health insurance benefits summary, retirement accounts, investment/sock accounts, life insurance policies, statements for whole-life policies with a cash value, jewelry appraisals, child care statements, and statements for any accounts titled in your children’s names (such as 529 accounts). Be prepared with any other document reflecting an account, piece of property, or debt that is in your name or your spouse’s name. You will also need a current vehicle fair market valuation from Kelley Blue Book online.
Run a free credit report
Use your social security number to make sure there are not any hidden or forgotten accounts that should be included in the divorce. You want to be as thorough as possible.
Refrain from posting to social media while your divorce is pending.
Don’t be that person. Set your privacy settings to the highest protection available to prevent your spouse and any mutual friends who are personal acquaintances of your spouse (your “spouse’s friends”) from seeing your page or profile. Remember that anything you post could be misconstrued by your soon to be ex-spouse’s attorney. And don’t be that person.
Ask for help.
Consult with an experienced divorce attorney, call your accountant, reach out to friends or family. Take care of yourself throughout this process.