Steps to Take if You Think a Divorce is Coming
Lisa Hochstein, star of “The Real Housewives of Miami,” never saw it coming. She knew her marriage of 13 years had some bumps but didn’t think it would end suddenly. When her husband informed her that he was divorcing her and moving on, she told the press, “It was a knife to the heart.”
Don’t let an impending breakup catch you off guard. There are many ways a person can protect their finances, their property, their children, and their sanity. Here are 8 steps to take if you think a divorce is coming.
1. Take Stock of the Relationship
Changes to work schedules, important life events, and children can disrupt a marriage. Partners must find a way to keep things running, with little time to talk through whether it’s beneficial or just a band-aid for a deeper problem.
Imagine the relationship as if a friend were relaying what they’re experiencing. Does it sound fair? Does it sound suspicious? Does it sound like a solid marriage? Viewing the relationship objectively can lend some insight into whether it’s working.
2. Decide if Going to Divorce Court Is Necessary
Texas allows uncontested divorces to avoid long divorce trials. However, before filing for divorce, spouses must agree to every detail of finances, children, and property. Sometimes, this is through a pre-nuptial agreement or during a mediated settlement before the divorce filing.
A divorce attorney is still necessary for the paperwork. Spouses appear in court to state their agreement with the decision under oath. The divorce decree is finalized 60 days later.
Watch Out for Pressure Tactics
If one partner has been hiding plans to leave, the other should be on guard against pressure to hurry things up, sometimes illegally. Spouses who are looking to get out of the marriage fast might try these tactics:
- Saying they’ll take care of everything
- Using an agreement with unfair provisions
- Intimidating their partner to sign without a lawyer
- Denying a thorough review of the agreement or changes
- Withholding money or children until the agreement is signed
- Hiding assets
- Delaying the negotiation process
- Refusing to agree to child support or alimony payments
- Leaving town with the children
- Emptying bank accounts or homes
3. Hire the Best Divorce Attorney Available
Unexpected divorces can become unpleasant fast, and hiring a skilled divorce attorney immediately is crucial. The unsuspecting partner needs calm, experienced, and educated advice throughout the process. Money can be a limiting factor, but getting the best help possible can avoid costly mistakes.
A divorce decree is a binding legal document that each partner must follow. It can be tempting to give in to get things over with if something seems small. However, like the disagreements that led to divorce, little things add up over the years. A good attorney keeps their client focused on the big picture, putting the individual’s best interests first.
Family law is very complicated, and each case is unique. An experienced lawyer knows how to interpret the law and navigate the court system for the best possible outcome.
4. Make Copies of Everything
As soon as it becomes clear that divorce is on its way, go through every file in the home and make copies of critical documents, such as:
- Bank statements
- Tax returns
- Marriage documents
- Birth certificates
- Investment statements
- Retirement account statements
- Check registers
- Vehicle titles
- Safe deposit box contents
- Employee benefit handbooks
- Financial statements
- Credit card statements
- Life insurance policies
- Documents pertaining to wills, living wills, trusts, power of attorney, and advance healthcare directives
- Mortgage documents and statements
- Social Security statements
- Financial information for LLCs or other self-employment documentation
Make a list of all assets, joint and individual, including vehicles, houses, land, bank accounts, investments, and retirement accounts. Also, make a list of all liabilities, such as credit card debts and medical bills. Try to create a complete accounting of the marriage on paper and think of it like a business.
If possible, obtain information about the other partner’s income. Some spouses don’t discuss money, and the truth can be surprising. Discovering hidden assets or income can become an advantage in negotiating the divorce agreement.
Don’t Forget the Tech
Invest in a cloud service to create a backup of every computer in the home, and secure it from the other partner. Obtain or make a list of all usernames and passwords for critical sites such as banking, investments, and credit cards. Do not change the passwords or try to lock the other spouse out unless directed by an attorney.
5. Inventory the Family Possessions
Along with the copies of important documents, create a list of family possessions and their origin. Include furniture, jewelry, artwork, appliances, vehicles, and anything else to divide. Make special note of anything borrowed from a family member or friend.
Texas is a community property state, so anything acquired during a marriage is considered owned equally by both partners. There are a few exceptions, but they can become a big sticking point during divorce proceedings. If an asset is from an inheritance, as a gift from a friend, or as a result of a lottery win for one partner, make a note of that.
6. Write Down the Household Budget and Debt
Examine the bank statements for the previous year for a solid idea of what the monthly expenses will be as a single person or parent. This can also guide a divorce attorney during negotiations on what alimony or child support payments should be. It can also keep things fair when discussing who is responsible for payments, especially any debt brought into the marriage by either spouse.
7. Begin a Separate Life Now
Don’t wait to set up a new life until after the divorce is final. If the split seems inevitable, it’s crucial to be ready to move on with these recommendations:
- Honestly assess expected income.
- Review all credit ratings.
- Open a separate individual bank account.
- Begin building a personal nest egg.
- Make a list of all personal items such as jewelry, heirlooms, or gifts.
- Change passwords for social media sites.
- Get a new secure email address.
- Open an individual P.O. box for divorce-related mail from your lawyer.
- Obtain separate health insurance if needed.
If there is a Durable Power of Attorney on file, have a lawyer file a revocation. Without this, the divorcing spouse can take everything before the papers are even signed.
8. Make Children a Top Priority
Preparing for a divorce involving minor children is especially hard. Keeping routines is critical but hard to maintain. Some key recommendations include:
- Review Texas’ custody process.
- Don’t degrade the other spouse in front of the children.
- Keep up with their activities and school events.
- Create a visitation calendar for each spouse.
- Make a parenting plan with the help of an attorney.
- Learn how child support works in Texas.
If possible, stay put and don’t leave the family home. This helps children keep a sense of normalcy, and staying in the house demonstrates rightful possession. Taking the kids and staying with grandparents could be used by the other spouse as evidence of property abandonment.
A Word About Domestic Violence
Leaving an abusive spouse is even more challenging. Gathering finances, making plans, and finding a safe place can take time and require spontaneous action. If possible, get help from family, friends, or support groups and ask for a restraining order against the abusive spouse.
Create a detailed journal of episodes of violence and bullying. Obtain any police reports and records of when the authorities were called. This is when it is crucial to have the help and guidance of an experienced and compassionate family law attorney.If you are in the process of going through a divorce, contact us online or by calling 949-438-3886.