Best 9 Steps to Take To Prepare for Divorce
There are many steps you will need to take to protect yourself and your assets when preparing for divorce. These 9 steps will help make this process a little less stressful and ensure a more favorable outcome.
Find a Good Divorce Attorney to help prepare for divorce
Finding a good divorce attorney is a little intimidating but a necessary part of preparing for divorce. An attorney who favors a collaborative approach can save you time, money, and stress. Mediation services often result in a better outcome for all parties. But you also need a lawyer who isn’t afraid to take your case to court if litigation becomes necessary.
Look for attorneys who have a good track record with cases like yours. Your attorney will not be able to share specifics of previous cases. However, they should be able to speak to their knowledge of any areas of law involved in your case.
Time to Gather and Prepare Financial Information for Divorce
Gathering financial information is a time-consuming part of preparing for divorce. It can also become more difficult to get these documents once you have begun your separation. Begin collecting these documents as soon as possible to save yourself some difficulty later on. These documents will help ensure an equitable distribution of your assets and debts.
Want to Determine Income
While preparing for divorce, you will need to determine income. Not just yours, but your spouse’s too. Your income will affect aspects of your settlement such as spousal and child support. Your income can also affect how the marital property gets distributed. Having these documents handy at the beginning of the divorce proceedings can help make splitting your shared property less contentious.
Make and Prepare an After-Divorce Budget
People often think of divorce as creating income. They will be making what they did before, but may also now receive spousal and child support. While this may look like more money on paper, you will also have more financial obligations.
When preparing for divorce, take time to make an after-divorce budget. This process will give you a better picture of what you will need to survive on after you separate. An after-divorce budget will also help you better negotiate any support payment schedules.
Make or Establish New Credit before Divorce
If most of your property is in your spouse’s name you may have limited or no credit history. This works out well for your spouse’s credit report but will pose some challenges for you.
To establish a credit history, you might consider getting a credit card in your name. Your spouse should not have access to this account. The goal here is to establish your credit, not go further into debt. So be sure to keep your balance low and pay it off each month.
Divorce Planning – Evaluate And Protect Financial Accounts
Divorce can get ugly, especially when it comes to money. Take stock of your financial accounts and do what you can to protect your assets.
To protect your share of the marital income, open an account in your name only. Do not hide the fact that you are moving half of the money into your account. You will also need to keep detailed records of how you spend this money. Your records will come in handy if your spouse tries to claim you wasted it on non-essentials.
If you have joint investment accounts, consider freezing them for now. Freezing an account will prevent an angry spouse from tampering with your investments before your property gets divided.
Before Divorce Close Joint Credit Accounts
As with any other joint accounts, it is wise to close any joint credit accounts. Doing this will prevent an angry spouse from running up debt you may later be obligated to pay.
Contact your credit card company and other credit accounts to let them know you are getting a divorce. Be sure to report a change of address if needed and ask about closing your account. You may be able to settle for less than what you owe, usually by agreeing to pay a lump sum. If you can negotiate a deal like this, be sure to ask for a letter stating the terms of the agreement. This letter should include the following:
- a statement that you paid the account in full,
- and that the company will not file any negative reports to any credit reporting agency regarding the debt
If this is not possible, you can have the account frozen.
You will also need to continue making payments on any debts you still owe. If you don’t, this can reflect poorly on you, especially if your case goes before a judge. While this may be a hardship, this step will help protect you from incurring unnecessary debt.
Don’t Move Out while preparing for Divorce
When preparing for divorce many couples believe one spouse will need to move out of the marital home. This is a common misconception and doing so can hurt your claim to the property.
When you move out it demonstrates that you have less interest in maintaining the property. This can harm your chances of being able to remain in the home – especially if you want to stay until your children have graduated and would need your spouse’s help paying the mortgage. Staying in the home improves your chances of a more favorable outcome.
There are circumstances under which moving out is the best option. If you feel you must move out, be sure to discuss this with your attorney before you make a move. The primary exception to this is in cases of abuse. Your first priority is to protect yourself and your children. If you feel staying would put you in danger, do not hesitate to move out. Your attorney will help you navigate this process and get you back into the marital home, without your spouse.
Be on Your Best Behavior during Divorce Proceedings
After separating, it can be tempting to go out and celebrate your newfound freedom. Be careful in how you choose to do this. While your divorce is still pending, your life is under a microscope. Anything you do can and will be used against you if your case goes to court. If you are fighting for custody of your children, this is especially important. You don’t want to give your spouse anything that could help them build a case against you.
Instead, take this time to lean on friends and family for support. Continue focusing on the needs of your children. Remember, divorce is particularly hard on children. Divorce is a very uncertain time for them; they need you now more than ever.
Prepare for Divorce Checklist
When preparing for divorce you will have a lot of decisions to make and not a lot of time to make them. It’s not unusual for important tasks to go overlooked. In this checklist, we address the specific actions you will need to take to make sure you have all your bases covered and hopefully have a peaceful divorce.
Before the Separation
These are steps to take before separating. Getting access to some information may become more difficult after you separate, or your spouse may retaliate by trying to cut you off from certain accounts. Some steps will need to be done discreetly.
Marriage Counselor or therapist
While your marriage may be beyond saving, a counselor can help you healthily survive and have a peaceful divorce. They can also help you develop a strategy for telling your partner you want a peaceful divorce.
Contact an Attorney
Even in an uncontested divorce, things can get complicated in the divorce process. When preparing for divorce be sure to contact a qualified attorney to protect your spousal rights and ensure an equitable settlement.
Get a P.O. Box
Set up a P.O. box to receive mail from your attorney or other professionals. Doing so will allow you to seek advice without your spouse knowing you plan to divorce before you are ready to tell them.
Prepare Legal Documents
While your lawyer can get these documents during the discovery phase, it is much easier to get them before you separate. Make sure you have copies of the following documents:
- Marriage certificate
- Pre- or post-nuptial agreements
- Drivers license
- Documents relating to any trusts you might have
- Any wills executed during the marriage
- Any other documents you feel may be relevant
Update Your Will
Texas is a “community property” state, which means it is almost impossible to completely disinherit a spouse. However, there may be changes you want to make to your will as a result of the divorce. It is best to take care of these changes now in case you forget to do it later.
During the Separation
During the separation is where you will start to feel the time crunch. This list will help you stay organized as you prepare for divorce.
Banks and Credit Cards
Here are things you will need to do to protect your bank and credit accounts.
- Make a list of all your accounts and credit cards
- Confirm your balances
- Get copies of your statements for the past year
- Open your own accounts and move half of the money into your account
- Keep detailed records of how you spend the money
- Close or freeze joint credit accounts
Bills and Finances
Having this information at hand will help simplify the process of splitting your community earnings and debt. Doing this will also help you to make sure all bills continue to get paid on time.
- List all monthly bills, both yours and your spouse’s
- Get statements of accounts for the past year
- Confirm current balances
- Confirm account numbers
- Confirm all login and access information
As you prepare for divorce, be sure to discuss with your attorney if you plan to move out of the marital home. Moving out during your separation has consequences that many couples are not aware of.
When dealing with the marital home be sure to:
- Make copies of mortgage statements for the past 6 months
- Confirm your account number
- Get bank loan and mortgage information
- Take pictures of each room and its contents in the home
- Make copies of payment statements
- Make a list of the assets in your home
- Get the house appraised
- Make copies of your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy
- Get a copy of leasing agreements
- Make a copy of your real estate tax bill
- List all monthly expenses, ie lawn care, gardener, maid, etc
Be sure you consult with your attorney before you move out of the marital home. Doing so can have unintended consequences for your divorce settlement. For example, in some states, if you move out during the separation, you will not be permitted to return to the home until the divorce is final.
- Research homes and apartments in the area you plan to move to
- Research school districts if you have children
- Get a copy of your rental agreement or deed to your new home
- Confirm bank loan information if you are buying a house
- Take pictures of the property
- If you buy a home, get the home appraised
- Confirm auto loan information
- Confirm account numbers for auto loans
- Make copies of the titles
- Get an estimate of the value of the vehicles
- Make copies of all auto insurance policies
One of the most important things to consider when preparing for divorce are the children. Whenever possible, the children should remain in the marital home and continue attending the same school. The more things can remain the same for them right now, the better. The following information can be helpful when making decisions about child support, custody, and visitation:
- Get school information, ie name, address, email, phone, and fax numbers
- Notify the school of a change of address or transportation arrangements
- Child’s class schedule
- List of after school activities
- Copies of child care expenses
It is important that you continue to make payments on debts during your divorce proceedings. Failure to meet your financial obligations can have serious consequences for your divorce settlement.
- List all debts owed by you and your spouse
- Confirm account balances
- Confirm account numbers
- Call creditors on joint accounts and see about closing or freezing the accounts
- Get a copy of your most recent credit report
- Gather your tax returns for the past 3 years
Your income information can impact many aspects of your settlement, including alimony and
- Get copies of your W-2’s or 1099 for the past 3 years
- Copies of your spouse’s W-2’s or 1099 for the past 3 years, if possible
- Copies of your pay stubs for the past 6 months
When you split your household your health insurance may also change. Be sure to research your options for health insurance before your divorce is final.
- Get copies of health insurance policy
- Confirm balances of health savings accounts
- Make a copy of all health insurance documents
- Make any necessary changes to your emergency contact information
Other Employer Benefits
- List all employer-provided benefits
- Current health insurance policy
- Disability insurance policy
- Life insurance policy
Retirement and 401K accounts are sometimes divided between spouses during a divorce.
- Check the current balance of your retirement and 401K accounts
- Confirm your account information
- Update the beneficiary on these accounts for now, if needed
Your investment accounts can factor into community and separate property. This information can change aspects of your divorce settlement. Failure to accurately value or report these accounts can have serious consequences. Be sure to get a current balance statement for all stock, bonds, and investment accounts. Change the beneficiary on these accounts for now, if needed.
Change passwords for all accounts. This will prevent a nosy spouse from accessing your accounts without your permission. This includes:
- Social media
- Online shopping accounts, ex. Amazon, grocery apps, etc
- Streaming services
- And all other online accounts
Make New Email Account
This one that couples preparing for divorce often miss. If you shared an email account with your spouse, or they have your login information, they may be able to read your emails without your knowledge. To prevent this, be sure to set up a new account with a password they would not know.
Do not make the mistake of ‘hacking’ your spouse’s email. As tempting as it may be, all information you rely on for your divorce must be obtained through the proper channels. A judge will take a very negative view of you violating your spouse’s right to privacy.
- List all assets including art, jewelry, furniture, appliances, etc.
- Calculate the approximate value of each item
- Make a list of the items you wish to keep
Get Power of Attorney
If you have ever granted your spouse power of attorney, you may need to revoke it. This includes any documents that name your spouse as your agent. This could include medical releases as well as banking and investment documents.
If you are a business owner, this can affect your divorce proceedings. There are documents you will need to obtain copies of. What these documents may vary depending on the nature of your business. Be sure to consult with your attorney about which documents you will need.
After the Divorce
If you have been diligent in preparing for your divorce there should be very little else for you to do once the divorce is final. However, you may want to consider the following:
- Obtain a Separation Agreement that waives your ex-spouse’s right to inheritance
- Update your will to reflect these changes
- Update the beneficiary on any retirement and investment accounts if needed
Get Emotionally Prepared for Divorce
How to mentally prepare for peaceful divorce
An aspect not often talked about is how to prepare emotionally for divorce. Regardless of why you are breaking up, it is understandable that you would have conflicting feelings.
You may experience fear of the unknown, or relief at escaping an unhappy marriage. You might feel overwhelmed by how much work it takes to separate and file for divorce. Perhaps you lie awake at night feeling guilty, wondering if you’re really making the right decision. Even if you want to divorce, you may still find yourself grieving the end of your marriage and the loss of what might have been.
Know that these feelings are all normal and a healthy part of moving on. Understand that there these feelings will come and go with each passing day. Some will be better and others will have you feeling like you’re back at square one. Know that with help and patience, it is possible to survive this process.
Best to Seek Help to prepare for the divorce process
Even if you feel you are handling your divorce well, it may be helpful to see a divorce coach or family therapist. They have helped thousands of people, just like you, who were going through similar situations. They can help you process and find peace through the divorce process. Your attorney may have coaches or therapists they have worked with previously and can recommend.
How to prepare for divorce, mediation and children issues in Texas
At The Jimenez Law Firm, P.C., you will be contacting an experienced and effective legal team of attorneys that can help you navigate difficulties of deciding to end your marriage and divorce your spouse. It is wise to call upon a skilled team of divorce lawyers whose focus is to effectively prepare and guide you toward a successful resolution of all the legal matters that will be involved.
Our attorneys can help you prepare for and navigate the complex details of the divorce process in Texas. For example:
- Help you prepare for divorce
- Building your divorce checklist better
- Mediation and fair negotiation with your spouse
- Work to find the best ways of finding peaceful solutions to issues and problems
- Dealing with emotions and support
- Financial assets, debt, income, credit, dividing and distributing your property and other legal concerns
- Children, child support and custody
- Getting what you want
- Spousal support
- Goal of having a peaceful divorce
- Unique divorcing women issue
- Unique divorcing men issues
- Opposing attorney issues
- Other family law related services
Contact Our Firm
If you have questions regarding divorce, contact The Jimenez Law Firm, P.C., by calling or by completing the contact form on this website. We offer consultations and accept most major credit cards for the payment of services.