After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, January often sees an uptick of divorce filings. Perhaps people were waiting to “get through the holidays” or maybe they decided as their New Year’s resolution that they are ready to change their unhappy living circumstances. Nonetheless, one of the most common questions we get from clients expecting the possibility of a divorce or even trying to plan for a divorce is what steps should they be taking. The earlier on in the process you can began to prepare for and plan for the steps to come, the more likely you are to have a successful outcome as you will be able to act with intention and thoughtful decision making rather than reacting emotionally. Of course, therefore, one of the best early steps to success you can engage in is getting thoughtful and meaningful legal advice about the process if you believe you may be facing a divorce, please call Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130 to get your consultation scheduled.
As you research preparing or planning for a divorce, what are some steps you may want to take? Again, the following is a summary list, but likely, you should consult with a lawyer before taking many actions, particularly if they have the potential of alerting your spouse to your plans to file. Often, we consult with clients about the time line of planning for their divorce and by taking one or more of the steps below, you have the possibility of removing your options to be able to be intentional about planning your time line.
Thus, again, the advice above to consult with legal counsel before taking action.
- Review your credit cards and open lines of credit.
When people file for divorce or are fearful that their spouse may file for divorce, they often make dramatic changes with their finances and take actions that they might not otherwise take. If you have open lines of credit or joint credit cards, you risk being jointly liable for those debts therefore, it may be best, in consultation with your legal counsel, to close or limit those open lines of credit. If you do not already have access to personal/individual credit, including a credit card in your own personal name, consider applying for one before the divorce process starts.
- Bank account planning.
Make sure you have a handle on your joint bank accounts and what funds are in your accounts. Document this in writing/through a statement if possible. However, in many situations, in consultation with your legal counsel, it may be well advised to move and protect some joint funds into your own, individual name. this is certainly not advice to close your joint accounts or remove all of the funds, both of which will be viewed as an unnecessary, high-conflict maneuver, but rather, some careful considerations and strategic planning about protecting financial resources with your legal counsel may be called for.
- Important financial accounts.
Communicate with lenders, account managers and other important people that you will get notifications if payments are not made or are made late. Learn the process, if permitted, for removing yourself from the liability. Pull a credit report for yourself to ensure that you are aware of all pending debt and all open lines of credit. If you believe something is incorrect on your credit report, work to proactively fix or correct it.
- Begin documenting important information.
The possibility of a divorce is often emotional and stressful. Begin keeping notes or a record of important conversations with your spouse that may be relevant to the divorce case process. Document time with your children or any concerns about the other parent’s care of the children. If you and the other parent are agreeing to and/or following arrangements related to parenting your children, keep a record of those arrangements and when you, as well as your spouse are spending time with the children.
- Seek out professional advisors if they are needed.
If you have a financial advisor, it may be an appropriate time to speak with him or her in confidence so that you can educate yourself and ensure that you are considering all relevant information. If you do not have a financial advisor and believe the services of one may be helpful, speak with your attorney about providing you with a referral. If you have been working with a counselor or psychotherapist, it is likely important to continue so that your therapist can help you process through emotions and be your best through a difficult legal process. For many of our clients, they are able to better control their legal fees by processing most of their emotions in therapy and then coming to our appointments ready to make decisions and plan to move things forward. Finally, many clients find having a tax professional or advisor available to consult with valuable for this process.
- Negotiations and communications with your spouse.
If you anticipate negotiating or communicating with your spouse to try to come to agreements or resolve issues, you should almost certainly obtain legal advice prior to such a conversation. You should know what is reasonable and an expected outcome so that you are not “giving away” more than would be expected of you, nor do you want to appear unreasonable to your spouse by expecting or requesting something that is well beyond anything you could reasonably expect. The more things you and your spouse can agree on- whether on a temporary or permanent basis- the fewer things you will be paying your lawyers to discuss and fight over.
- Safety planning.
If you are concerned or fearful about your personal safety or that of your children it is crucial that you quickly seek out legal advice and engage in safety planning. It may be helpful for you to write down all of the major or significant events that make you fearful for safety so you can succinctly share the concerns with your legal advisors. Discuss placing documents in safe location with your legal counsel. Obtain a PO Box or safe address for mailing if you are concerned about your mail not being provided to you. Make sure that your electronic devices including phones, ipads, tables or computers and email or banking accounts are protected by passwords protected that your spouse does not know.
- Social Media.
Think before you post! If you are placing things on social media that is accessible and viewable on the internet, you better be prepared to sit in court and explain to the judge what you posted and why. If you are out and about with friends and they are taking pictures, don’t pose for pictures you would prefer not appear on social media. Turn off your social media or set it to private and be intention about considering every post, tag or other comment made. If you are concerned about previous social medial postings, discuss these with your attorney.
At Pingel Family Law, we enjoy putting our proven history of knowledge and success to work for you. Whether you need a pre-planning consultation (which some clients do six months or even a year before filing) or you want to explore immediate options, we are here to support you. Call our office at (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation today.