If you’re convinced that your marriage is irretrievably broken and divorce is coming, there are things you can do now to prepare and protect yourself in the divorce process. Here are 10 steps to take if you believe your spouse is about to file for divorce:
1. Consult a Divorce Attorney
Start doing research on divorce and family law attorneys in your area and make appointments for consultations. Being adequately informed as to your legal rights and responsibilities is very important. Ask your attorney for more details on what to do before the divorce is filed and hope you can prepare for divorce.
2. Copy Important Documents And/or Obtain Documents Online
Go through the house and make copies of all documents that are relevant to your divorce case. These documents will include things like tax returns, paystubs, title documents for real estate and other property, retirement account statements, investment account statements, mortgage documents, wills, credit card statements, bank statements, and other similar documents. If there are no paper copies of the documents readily available, make sure to go online to obtain copies of these documents. If you are unable to print out copies, save them to another device/memory stick that you can access later.
3. Inventory All Household Items and Possessions
Make a list of all items in the home you share with your spouse, including but not limited to furniture, appliances, expensive handbags or shoes, silverware, plates, books, artwork, automobiles, jewelry, and any other items that will have to be divided between you and your spouse in a divorce. Don’t forget to check the garage for tools and other outdoor equipment and outdoor furniture that will have to be allocated during the divorce, as well as any other storage areas you and your spouse might have.
4. Determine How to Manage the Family Debt
First, determine if there is any debt that was incurred by either you or your spouse before the marriage. This debt could be classified as non-marital debt and should be assigned as that person’s individual debt for which will be solely responsible. Next, consider paying down the marital debt before the divorce if you can. The marital debt will be allocated between you and your spouse. Consider getting a copy of your credit report to be aware of any accounts or unknown debts that have accrued during your marriage or account recently opened.
5. Be Knowledgeable About The Household Budget and Expenses
Go through your bank and credit card statements for the last year to help determine your monthly expenses. This information will be important during the divorce when calculating support and will also help you understand how much you might need to set aside to support yourself before the divorce is filed. Keep track of your cash purchases each month as well.
6. Find Out What Your Spouse Earns
Your income and your spouse’s income will be used to determine child support and spousal maintenance if your case is a maintenance case as determined by statute. Having knowledge of your spouse’s income will help in determining potential support amounts. If your spouse earns a regular salary, the income can be easily found out via pay stubs or W-2 forms. However, if your spouse is self-employed, then additional documents will likely be required to prove their income accurately. Talk to your attorney about more details if your spouse is self-employed.
7. Determine Your Earning Potential
Have you been out of the workforce for some time? Is your current job long-term and in the field in which you were educated? Are you able to support yourself on your own? Whatever your situation might be, consider your current employability and potential to earn additional income. This will help you determine if furthering your education before a divorce might be beneficial.
8. Know Your Credit History
Get a credit report. Having good credit is important for your life after a divorce. If you only have credit cards in the joint name of you and your spouse, apply for your own credit cards to start establishing more of your individual credit history. If your name is not on any credit cards, apply for your own credit cards to start establishing your own individual credit history. Use the cards and pay them off on time. If you know you have a poor credit history, work on paying creditors now to improve your credit rating before the divorce.
9. Build Your Own Nest Egg
Start to set aside funds in your own separate account for use in case your spouse stops paying for household bills and expenses. This money can also be used to pay a retainer to your attorney to represent you in the divorce. You can obtain an Order from the court in your divorce case for temporary support from your spouse, but until then, you can use these separate funds to help you maintain your expenses.
10. Put Your Kids First
Don’t make any sudden changes to your kids’ daily routines or activities; keep them as normal as possible. To prevent disagreements about the children, try to create a schedule with your spouse as to when each of you will get separate time with the children. Try to reach an agreement about taking the kids to their activities and other events so arguments can be avoided. Make sure to stay involved, or start getting involved, in your children’s school, activities, and sports. Talk to the children’s teachers and coaches so they know you.