How to help yourself prepare for Divorce:
Often when meeting with potential clients who are considering divorce, I like to give advice on a few simple Cautions and Actions for clients that will make this entire process much easier on themselves. Here are a few simple things that will help you prepare for your divorce.
- Agreements in writing matter.
Divorce is an emotional process that has many ups and downs. Sometimes the parties can have moments of peace and togetherness that results in an agreement on an issue or multiple issues. This is great and is a positive experience if that moment can be reduced to writing. Often times that oral agreement and moment of peace can evaporate quickly and one party is left feeling burned. They key to solving this problem is getting something in writing, a text message, an email, or written statement can be a huge difference here.
- Be careful what you say / write – text messages etc. can be easily subpoenaed.
As part of that emotional process, parties can sometimes say something in a moment of anger and frustration that is regrettable. It’s something we’ve all done and will likely do again because we’re all human. I have found that it’s best to stay conscious of that risk and try to reduce the amount of negative material your soon to be former spouse has at the next hearing.
- Rash actions are often penalized.
Occasionally, a spouse come off the rails when divorce is on the table. I remind our clients to 1. Document, Document, Document and 2. Take a deep breath. Courts do not like to see Orders, Domestic Relations Injunctions, and other laws broken during this process. The Court will see your evidence and will ensure the next hearing takes care of the problem.
- Continue paying bills – try to agree on distribution.
Another common issue is parties that cannot agree on the distribution of bills and let items go unpaid. I recommend that our clients try to be the bigger person and that if they can afford a bill, to pay it. Then they can keep their receipts and present that evidence at the next hearing. It also proves best to be the responsible party in contested divorce actions.
- Excel sheet of finances
One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for the process is to create an excel spreadsheet of all your finances. List all of your bank accounts, credit cards, income, other assets, debts, investments, 401K’s , other retirement accounts, real estate investments, and anything else you can think of in a chart so that when it’s time to start dividing in the divorce, you have the full picture. You will also be required to disclose all of that information in the Financial Declaration, that is due 14 days after the Answer is filed. It’s best to have that information ready and to file on time.
- Wish list
Create a wish list for your case, write down everything you would award yourself, if you were the Judge in your own case. First, it’s best to have a clear idea of your goals and desires going into the divorce process. Things may change so make sure to update your list as you go. The Petition will function as the official wish list for your case. What you don’t ask for, you waive to ask for later. Second, you’ll want to make sure to keep that list updated, so that way when you negotiate later on, you’ll have the full picture. When you go to mediation, which is required in every case, you will know what you can compromise on and where you can’t. For those who have minor children, create a wish list for your ideal parenting plan in the case and how you want the legal custody and physical custody aspects of your divorce to be handled. When it’s time to present your story to the court or begin the mediation process, it’s best to know exactly what you want. This will ensure that nothing is forgotten in the heat of the moment in mediation or litigation.
- Potential red flags.
On the flip side, keep a list of all the potential red flags with your spouse. If there is an issue that anytime you bring it up, your spouse become erratic, emotional, or just loses it; mark it down. It’s not that you won’t bring up that issue at the next hearing or mediation session, you will just be strategic in how you do so. Often times the packaging of an issue and solution can be the difference between settling your divorce and / or winning your hearing.
This is my short list for preparing for a divorce. If you have any specific questions, be sure to schedule a consultation with our front desk.
Jesse K. West