For most couples, they marry, maybe buy a house, get a pet, and have children. As they do these things together, they slowly intermix financials, friends, pets, and how they apportion the work and rearing of the children. Almost no one thinks when they marry, they will divorce. For this reason, divorce is a complex, legal transaction that often leaves one spouse unprepared financially or emotionally. When a marriage is breaking down, a wise spouse prepares in advance to minimize being left without access to their children, a car to drive to work, and money to access to live upon. This blog covers the keys of planning for the “what if” the marriage continues to deteriorate and leads to divorce.
Bank/Credit Account: Many spouses have joint savings and/or checking accounts and/or credit cards. In fact, often times spouses only have joint accounts. While it is acceptable to have joint accounts, any seasoned divorce attorney has handled a case when as soon as the divorce is filed, the other spouse cleans out the bank accounts and/or maxes the credit cards. While this can be dealt with in the divorce, that will take time and you need an established banking relationship and credit card in your own name to protect yourself by building a financial reserve and having your own credit. If you do not, it could take weeks to get a preliminary hearing to address what may be a dire situation when a divorce is filed (depending on how the spouse act). During the time you establish your own financial accounts, it is also wise to review your credit reports to determine if you have an accurate assessment of joint marital debts. Many spouses are shocked to learn of significant debts they did not know about. Knowing this—even if the marriage survives—is key to having a healthy financial life.
Marital Documents: Most couples apportion who does what work in the family unit. If one spouse alone handles the finances and you do file, you will need to obtain copies of key documents before you file, as these often “disappear”. This would include your joint (or individual) tax returns, mortgage documents, insurance information, appraisals, photos of the contents of the home, and your monthly bills. One of the first documents your divorce counsel will ask you to complete is a financial declaration. This financial worksheet works through your gross weekly income, household expenses (utilities and insurance to name two) and all other assets and liabilities. The information you need in a divorce varies from person to person. A veteran, for instance, would need a copy of his or her DD-214 and a professional a copy of his or her license. Without these, you may have to engage in expensive discovery to obtain this information, and your divorce counsel cannot guide you until they have an accurate financial snapshot of the marital estate.
Selecting Counsel: While most divorce attorneys advocate trying to work out the issues, if your marriage is shaky enough you are following the general guidance in this blog on preparing for a divorce, you should consider researching and meeting with divorce counsel. It may well be that your spouse is also looking to divorce, and if he or she files before you, stressing to locate the counsel that fits your legal philosophy can be challenging. By having counsel already selected and in your corner, it can prepare you for emergency filings where you only have a short time before appearing in court for a preliminary hearing where one party typically seeks sole physical custody and possession of the marital residence during the pendency of the case. Scurrying to locate counsel, if you are surprised to learn your spouse filed (sometimes spouses will have a triggering event and file on the same day), is extremely stressful and may cause your counsel to have limited time to properly prepare for your hearing. If you do not divorce, you obtained important legal advice and had a good investment from being prepared for a divorce filing and emergency hearing. You will be prepared.
Social Media: Although this may not be a passing thought when you consider the reality that your marriage may end in divorce, social media is the new frontier in divorce litigation, showing everything from drug use to criminal activity. The vast majority of Americans are using social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. Even though you might think animosity is a part of using social media or just a playful communication and recreation, many attorneys have been totally blindsided in court with a social media post. Particularly, when you have children, social media can be powerful source of evidence to suggest a certain party should have physical custody. While everything leaves a remaining footprint (what you have posted is posted), if you are contemplating divorce, you should not post or send anything going forward on a social media app that you do not want to see on the headline of a paper.
While most potential divorce litigants would not necessarily think of these areas of inquiry as being important in divorce, all seasoned divorce attorneys do. These reflect proper preparation to divorce and planning ahead. You will have the questions that first pop into your head answered by your counsel to some degree, such as how long a divorce takes and how much does it cost, when the time is right. If you have not prepared for these foundational components to the “what if” a divorce filing is made, your case will be in a weaker position, drag on longer, and cost more. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle divorces cases of all types, and appeals, throughout all of Indiana’s 92 counties. This blog is intended for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.