Category: planning

Pre-Divorce Planning – Part II

Pre-Divorce Planning – Part II

I was told by an older attorney years ago that “failing to plan, is planning to fail.”  As trite as that sentiment may be, it is also very accurate.  I am certain that over the years, I have won cases I probably should have lost simply because the other side did not properly plan and prepare their case.  Previously we began our discussion of pre-divorce planning.  Let’s continue with more tips on how you can plan to protect you, your family and your resources before a divorce case gets started.

  • Take down all social networking sites, websites, etc.: First, let me be clear.  The deletion of pictures, posts, etc. from a social media account, especially during litigation, could be deemed to be destruction of evidence for which you could be sanctioned by the court.  However, there is nothing improper or illegal about deactivating your account.  Be aware that the account will still remain on the social media site’s server and could possibly still be accessed.  The interconnected world we live in makes it very easy to learn all sorts of information about a person. One of the first things I do whenever I get a new divorce case is immediately run Google search of the opposing party. You would be amazed what I have found. There is no reason to make it easy for your spouse’s attorney to mine such data about you. If you have a blog, Facebook, Twitter or any other such web page, deactivate it immediately. Even if there is nothing particularly damning on it, your spouse may have your password and be able to log into the page and make changes to besmirch your reputation.
  • Open a separate checking account: Most married couples have joint bank accounts, which means that both parties have equal access to the accounts. Nevertheless, people regularly come into my office and are surprised to find that their spouse has raided the account and absconded with all of the contents. Protect yourself by opening a separate account and withdrawing one-half of the proceeds of the joint accounts to give you something to live on for a while. Keep in mind that if you withdraw the entire account, you will most likely have to repay your spouse for his/her share. Additionally, it is usually a good idea to open the account at a different bank than the one at which you and your spouse have historically done business. Smalltown banks have a tendency to get to know the parties as a couple and, in spite of laws to the contrary, routinely give out information to opposing parties because they are not aware of the pending divorce.
  • Get a complete physical: There are several reasons to do this. One, divorce is one of the top five stressors you will ever go through and it is more important than ever to make sure you stay healthy. Two, a person’s physical health is an element considered by the court for numerous issues such as child custody and maintenance. Three, it is vital that you get yourself checked if you have any reason to suspect that your spouse has been unfaithful. If he/she has infected you with a sexually transmitted disease, you need to find out before the divorce is over so your lawyer can ensure that the philanderer pays the expenses of treatment.
  • Immediately start gathering information: The unfortunate truth is that the only truth in the courtroom is what you can prove. As soon as your spouse finds out you are planning to divorce him/her, you may find that various documents and files start disappearing. As a general rule, if a document has a dollar sign on it anywhere, your lawyer needs a copy of it. This includes, but is not limited to:
  • Real estate closing documents – deeds, mortgages, notes, tax records, etc
  • Credit card statements
  • Bank statements
  • Loan documents
  • Income tax returns (last 3-4 years)
  • Paycheck stubs for both parties
  • Title statements
  • Investment account statements (Mutual funds, IRAs, stock certificates, etc)
  • Retirement & pension account statements
  • Statements of insurance benefits (health, life, and disability)
  • Keep in mind that if there is a particular asset you believe to be a non-marital asset, the burden is on you to prove that it is non-marital.
  • If there is a certain document you cannot locate and you believe your spouse has in his/her possession, tell your lawyer about it and he may be able to get it through the discovery process.
  • Plan your custody case: If you have determined that you will seek primary custody of your child(ren), you need to start planning your custody case immediately. One useful exercise is to pretend you are sitting down with the judge and you have an opportunity to explain to the judge why you should have custody of your child. Ignoring all of the rules of evidence or what is proper in court, just write down everything you would say; get it all down on paper. After you have brainstormed your argument, read back through and think about how you and your lawyer can prove each point, remember truth is not important in the courtroom if it cannot be proven. What facts will need to be established with eyewitness testimony? Are there any facts that need documentary proof? Where can you find those documents? Plan ahead or plan to fail.
  • Complete a financial disclosure/data packet: This will assist your attorney and is a required pleading in several jurisdictions. It helps act as a quick reference for you, your attorney, and, most importantly, the judge. You can download one here.

These are just some of the steps you can take to improve the chances of success of your divorce case. As always it is vital that you talk with a skilled family law attorney to formulate a plan specific to your circumstances.

Photo courtesy of Andy Rogers
Planning For Your Divorce – Part I

Planning For Your Divorce – Part I

It’s over.  You can’t take it anymore.  Maybe it is an abusive relationship.  Maybe you have finally found proof that your spouse is cheating.  Maybe you have just come to the realization that you are not happy and cannot be happy in this relationship.  Whatever the reason, you have decided that divorce is definitely in your future.  How do you plan for it?  Here are some concrete steps you can take to start building your case and defending yourself.

  • Run a copy of your credit report: Often-times when a person gets divorced, he/she discovers that his/her spouse has used that person’s name (and good credit) to secure loans, credit cards, etc. without that person’s knowledge. It is much better to find out about any unknown debts earlier rather than later. You can easily get a copy of your credit report for free off of the internet. Be sure you request that your report include addresses of all creditors. You may also consider signing up for a credit fraud protection service to alert you to activity on your credit report.
  • Open a PO Box and Separate Email Address: Control of information during divorce litigation is critical. If your spouse is able to intercept your mail, it will not only hinder your ability to gather information your lawyer needs, it may interfere with your lawyer’s ability to communicate with you. Setting up a separate P.O. Box and having your mail forwarded will save you a great deal of heartache.  If you share an email address with your spouse, get your own.  There are many free services such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc.  Do not plan on using your work email.  Legally, your employer controls that email and may be subject to a subpoena from your spouse’s attorney where your ex can then get access to all of your work emails.
  • Change all passwords: Ever increasingly we find ourselves conducting our personal business on the internet. Emails are exchanged. Bills are paid. Accounts are managed. To properly protect yourself, as soon as you know you will be filing for divorce, change every one of your passwords to something that your spouse will not be able to guess. If you are one of those people that only uses 2-3 passwords for everything, think of something new; preferably ones that include random letters and numbers.  Using password locker software such as Lastpass or 1Password is also useful.
  • Start carrying a calendar: I have found that slender week-at-glance type calendars work well. These calendars generally give you ample room to write and keep track of visits you or your spouse have with your child(ren), incidents between you and your spouse, appointments with your lawyer, court dates, etc.  If you use a smartphone, you can also use the calendar/notes app on the phone; however, be aware if you back up your phone “to the cloud” that if you share a user account with your spouse, he/she may be able to access your notes.
  • Change your beneficiaries: Let me be clear, if your divorce is filed and a court has entered a “status quo” order, you may be prohibited from changing any beneficiaries.  However, nothing prevents you from changing them before you file for divorce unless your HR department or agent refuses to let you make these changes. You should also review your will to ensure that your estate goes to your intended beneficiaries. If you do not have a will, you should get at least a simple will. If you die without a will before the divorce is final, your spouse will probably inherit the lion’s share of your estate.

These are just a few ideas to think of in planning your divorce case.  We will continue this discussion in a future post.

Photo courtesy of thebarrowboy

Planning for a Divorce

Planning for a Divorce

As we have previously discussed, divorce filings increase dramatically in the months of January and February.  Many people are considering a divorce in the new year now that the holidays are behind them. There are several things you should do to prepare for an impending divorce.  The following will help you plan step-by-step for your divorce.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

You would not believe the number of people who meet with their divorce attorney and have no idea about their financial status.  Take this opportunity to learn about any prenuptial agreements that may exist.  Learn about your household budget.  What are your monthly payments?  Learn what assets you and your spouse have both individually and together.  Research whether there are investment or retirement accounts. Research the value of those assets.  The property valuation administration and Kelly Bluebooks are excellent resources.

GATHER YOUR PROOF

Take this opportunity to put together as much documentation as you can.  Gather bank records, investment/retirement account statements, credit card statements, deeds, titles, and insurance policies.    You can find a more detailed list of things to bring to your first meeting with a divorce attorney here.

Although your attorney can usually get these documents during the litigation, it can be much more costly and time consuming to do so.  If you gather them ahead of time, it may save you significantly on your fees.  Moreover, when your attorney is properly armed with the necessary information, it increases the chances that the case may be able to be settled sooner rather than later.

Documentary evidence is not the only type of evidence you can gather.  If there are children involved, you should immediately begin keeping a parenting journal.  Keep photographs, education records of children, and information on each person’s medical history (including the children).

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

The five stages of grief are a real thing.  You will be going through them at a different rate than your spouse and your children.  Going through a divorce has been equated to the stress of close loved one dying or losing a job.  The grief and stress of the process requires you to pay special attention to your own mental health and wellbeing.  Further, your children may need assistance dealing with issues of the divorce.  Your attorney should be able to make a referral for you to a qualified mental health professional.

You also need to be aware of your physical safety and that of your children.  Kentucky has in place statutes specifically providing for the protection of victims of domestic violence.  Most counties have a twenty-four hour protocol in place so that you can seek that protection at any hour of day or night.

While it is nothing anyone enjoys thinking about, with a little planning you can get a new start without starting over.

Photo courtesy of babi krishna