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11 Steps To Take In Divorce Planning

A focused person sitting at a desk, writing notes on a paper with a pen.

If you or someone you know is facing divorce, there are at least 11 steps you should take in divorce planning:

  1. Get legal advice. Even if you can’t afford an attorney, at least find out the path you should expect to take.  Divorce is very complicated.
  2. Document preparers cannot give you legal advice for your divorce planning. At times, about one-half my client base comes from document preparation gone wrong.  In over 100 trials in the last three years, never once have I watched a document preparer stand by their work in front of a judge.  In fact, I have never seen a document preparer represent anyone in the courtroom.  I would almost never suggest that anyone use the services of a document preparer.
  3. Consider your email account. Does your spouse know the email account?  Do they know the password?  Do they have spyware on your computer or other device?  Do you have an email account that is exclusively your own?  By exclusively, we mean in every sense of the word.  Read your email provider’s privacy statement.  If you shared an account provided by your cable company, the account holder typically is the “owner” of all accounts on that domain name.  If your spouse was the account holder, they may have the right to terminate your email account or obtain access to it.  If you shared passwords, computers or the like, then you should block their access.
  4. Check your phone line. If you shared a mobile or land line account, the other party may have the right to view your statements.  They may be planning for this divorce too, and they can find out who you called, how long the call lasted and trace the numbers dialed.  The other party can find out the name of your new lawyer, your new lover or locate your new home rental!  It is possible in many cases to do an assumption of liability and sever the account so that your new account, and all information associated with it, is completely your own.
  5. Check your car. Your spouse can place a tracking device on your car, and your spouse can monitor where you travel.  Is this stalking?  It probably is stalking.  But if someone is following me home at night, I won’t go straight to my house.  The same should go for you and your daily activities.
  6. Check your statements from any financial institutions in planning for your divorce. Notice that I used the word “any.”  There is a chance that even if your spouse’s name is on financial institution statements, there is a community right to that money.  What is inexpensive to gather now can be very expensive to gather later, during the “discovery” process.  In some of my cases, the other attorney or the party will “hide the ball” and deny the existence of certain accounts.  They will avoid disclosing how much money is in accounts.  Cash withdrawals are great clues as well.  While you are living in the same home, now is the time to gather this important information.  It will never be as easy to do once you are living separately.
  7. Gather important documents. You need to have originals or copies of bank statements, mortgages, deeds, major purchase receipts, car loans, etc.  It could become extremely expensive to pry those documents from the cold, hardened grip of an angry ex-spouse after you have stopped planning and gone to file for your divorce.
  8. Keep track of your schedule and your life with the kids now. What life looks like for the kids before divorce can determine how life looks for the kids after the split.  Document with photos, videos, facetime records, texts, which parent is with the kids more often.  Who provides for the kids’ needs?  You’ll want to show this later if there is a dispute over parenting time and one parent is asking for unrealistic parenting time in order to avoid a support obligation. Are you the working parent?  Make sure that if you are planning a divorce, you are spending a lot of time with your kids and arranging your schedule to show that you’re spending that time.
  9. What are you signing? Have you signed any promissory or other loan documents in the last three or four years?  If you requested that yours spouse sign off on loans, then you can Obtain proof that your spouse
  10. Keep track of your travel and theirs. There is a recent case in which the court of appeals in Arizona found that the ability of a parent to travel with the kids is germane to the travel experiences the children may expect.  So now, get this nailed down – how much you spent, where you stayed, and what you did.  It may be important later.
  11. If you want to “right size” your life, your schedule, your employment – pre-divorce is the time. You may be a surgeon who is never home, or a realtor considering going back to school to get your degree in Psychology.  Maybe you have the next big idea but you are stuck in middle management and cannot yet strike out on your own as an entrepreneur.  Before you file for divorce, and I mean, months or years before, if possible, put your plan into motion.  Why?  Because at the time you file for divorce, a “snapshot” of sorts is taken.  This “snapshot” encompasses your whole life as a family, including finances, how you lived, and what resources were available.  If you are doing well as a realtor, there is case law that says that you can work any job you want.  However, the court will assume for purposes of child support and spousal maintenance that you can earn $200,000 per year.  You may be stuck working as a realtor, just to make your payments.

 

 

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