Top Divorce Survival Tips
Marriage is this beautiful, amazing, loving, caring union… until it’s not. Your divorce can go relatively smoothly, or become “the war of the roses.” It has been said that marriage takes a lot of work, and it does, work that can be really rewarding. But divorce takes even more work, especially when there are kids involved.
There are a number of simple, smart strategies which we recommend based on our years of experience helping clients like you navigate their divorces. Here are a few of the most important:
- Consider the timing of your divorce. If your spouse is due a bonus or raise, wait until it is paid out before filing, to avoid any claim that its not marital property. If you have been in long-term marriage, stick it out to the 10-year mark. This will help you get more of your spouse’s social security.
- Make yourself indispensible. Make sure your name is on all bank accounts, investment accounts, deeds of trust, utilities, etc. and that joint signatures are needed. This will prevent your spouse from raiding your bank accounts.
- Gather all financial information which you have access to, and make copies of documents that might easily be destroyed or lost. Make copies of all documents (tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, W-2 forms, mortgage statements, loan agreements, etc.). Track down the assets. You need to know where every penny is. This includes bank accounts, stocks, bonds, jewelry, etc. In a divorce, each spouse has to disclose all assets, but often individuals are less than forthcoming. Know what is out there as half, or some portion of it, is yours.
- You may open a new bank account in order to begin to protect some of the assets. If there is a temporary restraining order or injunction in place, then you will need to consult with an attorney about any financial changes.
- Protect your credit. You will need your credit to start your new lifestyle. Don’t co-sign for your spouse.
- Stash some cash. You need to start saving your money well before you file. Your spouse probably already has money tucked away.
- Avoid arguments or fights of any kind. Don’t threaten, or participate in any violence with your spouse. If you end up appearing to be the initiator, even if you weren’t, this can have a major negative impact on your divorce and access to your children. If you believe this type of situation is building, get yourself out of it as quickly as possible. If violence, or a serious threat of it, does occur, call the police immediately.
- If you have children, put them first in everything you do. Divorce is very hard on children, but the impact can be greatly lessened if you stay aware of how your actions or reactions might affect them. Unless a safety concern exists, cooperate with phone calls and visits between the children and the other parent. If children are staying with the other parent, continue to have regular contact with them, or make every effort to do so. It can also be important to document your contacts or efforts to contact. Do not bring a new relationship around the children during the divorce.
- Don’t put the kids in the middle. Keep your kids out of it. Don’t involve them in the decision to get a divorce or any of the particulars. It’s bad for the kids, and it makes you look bad in a custody battle.
- Don’t alienate your children from your spouse. Judges hate this, and it’s bad for the children.
- Child support is mandated by law “don’t worry.” The courts require that an Income Deduction Order be entered, so that child support will be automatically garnished from the payor’s paycheck and be recorded.
- Do not threaten to financially break the other spouse (or to quit your job). This type of threat can have a huge negative impact on the process, and is not looked upon kindly by Judges. In fact, you should be careful to maintain the status quo as much as possible, until an agreement is reached otherwise. Also, do not make any large purchases or expenditures. These could make you look bad, but also could decrease options for settlement of your divorce.
- Be very careful about communications with the other spouse. Assume all written communications will be used against you in court, and also that anything you say is being recorded. It also wouldn’t hurt to assume your Mother is listening in as well! If you have a personal email account that you have been using during your marriage, assume that the other party not only has the password, but has the ability to access the account even if you change the password. We advise you to create a new account and use it for all communications except with your spouse.
- Impact of social media. Facebook and other social networking sites can sabotage your resolution of your divorce. Nothing is private on the World Wide Web, so think before you post.
- Decide who to confide in. During this planning stage, keep your discussions limited to one or two people you can trust and who you know won’t talk to your spouse.
- Don’t fall for the hype. Don’t let your spouse convince you that you will end up with nothing, or you will be kicked out of the house. Your spouse doesn’t make these decisions, the judge does. Half of everything your spouse owns belongs to you.
Although many individuals are able to resolve their divorces with little or no legal advice, there are many circumstances where legal advice can be critical, and the earlier you get it the better. Some early strategic decisions can make a big difference in the outcome of your divorce.