We are facing very uncertain times at the moment. With the WHO, CDC and the Federal Government’s coronavirus guidelines on social distancing and recommendations against large gatherings, you may find yourself at home working remotely, or being stuck at home confined with your significant other and/or family, with seemingly no escape in sight. There is a way, however, to put extra time at home to good use (other than catching up on Netflix or good books) when it comes to planning for divorce. This time of home isolation and social distancing is a great opportunity to try to plan for the future if divorce is something you are contemplating or seriously considering.
Planning for Divorce When You’re Stuck at Home
Here are some tips to follow in the event you find yourself at home with spare time for planning for divorce:
(1) Gather and Organize your Financial Documents.
Most divorcing parties exchange financial documents, particularly when they have accounts or debts in their own names. Start by gathering three (3) years of your prior bank statements, credit card statements, investment account statements, retirement account statements, Federal and State Income Tax Returns, W-2’s/1099’s, year-end paystubs for the prior three (3) years, documents relative to any real estate you own, documents relative to any financial expectancies, documents showing that any property you own is non-marital; your resume, any other financial related documents, going back three (3) calendar years. Organize these documents in date order and by year, in folders. This will make it easy for you to refer back to these documents and it will also make it much easier for an attorney you hire to go through the documents while saving you attorney’s fees and costs associated with them having to organize the same. Even if you do not have separate accounts, gathering the last three (3) years of all financial documents, even the joint ones, is helpful, as some attorneys will require these when drafting settlement proposals, or advising you on the distribution of the marital estate. It is also very helpful to create a balance sheet, listing all known assets and the values, as of a (recent) date certain. This will give an attorney you hire a very clear picture of your finances.
(2) Get a Head Start on Filling out a Financial Affidavit Form
This financial form is almost always required to be filled out by both parties in a domestic relations case, whether it is a divorce or a parentage case, so long as some sort of support (child support or spousal support/maintenance) is involved. This form is easy to access online via Google if you’re looking for the Illinois statewide form. This form is generally the first thing your attorney will ask you to complete, so it doesn’t hurt to take a look at it and get an idea of what you will have to provide as far as financial information is concerned. To assist you in preparing this form, gather and organize your last twelve (12) months of bills, paystubs, expenses, receipts, and the like. (If you don’t use cash then your last twelve months of credit cards or checking account statements may suffice). You will need to come up with the monthly amount of various expenses as well as your monthly income to fill out this form. You will also need current account balances, to the best of your knowledge. Taking a sneak peek at the form and gathering the relevant information to help you complete it will put you ahead of the game.
(3) Organize your Thoughts on Property Distribution
Your divorce plan should include making a punch list of your property and how you want it distributed helps you to formulate a game plan with your attorney. Perhaps there are certain items that you want the most (i.e., to keep the marital home) and perhaps there are certain things you don’t care about as much (i.e., taking part in your spouse’s retirement account). Making a list of your “wants” versus “would like’s” versus what you do not want helps you to organize your thoughts and helps you to figure out with your counsel what your approach will be to your case.
(4) Organize your Thoughts on Child-related Issues (Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time)
Now is a great time to contemplate what sort of parenting time schedule would work best for your minor children. Consider factors such as where you will be living, where your spouse will be living, distance from your respective places of residence to the child(ren)’s schools, and how facilitating transportation would work. Think about things such as emergency plans for school closures and how those would work. Concentrating on how to allocate holidays is also something to consider. Do you want to share major holidays, such as Christmas, where one party takes Christmas Eve and the other takes Christmas Day? Or, do you want to take the entire Christmas holiday, to coincide with a week of Winter Break, to allow for travel? Do you want Thanksgiving to be an entire week off of school, or just the day? Going through a list of major holidays and sorting through what you want can be time-consuming, and now you may just find yourself with some time to review this.
(5) Organize and Prepare to Divide Personal Items
While you are stuck in the home planning for divorce, it is a great time to go through your personal property, and even to try and divide it up. Courts do not like to determine issues relative to personal property because, by the time the parties pay their attorneys to argue over who gets the 65-inch OLED TV, the parties probably could have bought several of them. Parties are often encouraged to sort through and divide personal property on their own. This would be one less thing to worry about!
(6) Research Attorney Options
Do your due diligence when researching divorce attorneys. Not every attorney is a good fit for every case. Personality and comfort really matter when you are choosing a divorce attorney. This person will be guiding you through the unknown and very personal time in your life. Look at websites, online reviews, and talk to people who have used the attorneys whom you may know. This will all help you make an informed decision about who is the right attorney to hire. To help you with this process, check out our tips on how to Choose the Divorce Attorney that is Right for You.
(7) Schedule a Phone Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer
At Anderson & Boback, we realize the coronavirus has created a time of added questions and uncertainty. As experienced Chicago divorce attorneys, we remain available and eager to help not only our current clients but our future clients as well. We are happy to set up a confidential phone consultation to see if your divorce or family law case is something we can assist with and if our firm would be a good fit for you. Give us a call at the office at 312-715-0870 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.