Making the decision to divorce your spouse can often be a very difficult one. There is a lot of uncertainty and fear about how you will make it through both emotionally and financially. Often times the woman may be the “dependent” spouse financially in the relationship as she has chosen (together with her husband or partner) to step out of the workforce to raise children on either a permanent or part time basis. This article will share the top ten things all women should know as they embark on dissolving their marriage. Knowledge is power and the more information you have to come up with a plan, the less scary and overwhelmed you will feel.
1. Talk to your spouse: To the extent you can, you should try to have a conversation with your spouse in advance to let him know that you want a divorce so he is not blindsided. In some cases, this is not possible, or practical, especially if there is a history or fear of abuse or violence as a result.
2. Talk to your children: If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, pick a time with your spouse to tell your children together of your plans. Stress that the divorce has nothing to do with them and that you both love them. Don’t put your children in the middle of the divorce and don’t discuss the divorce process or custody arrangements with your children. You may want to consider seeking professional advice from a therapist as to the bet way to communicate your decision to divorce to your children.
3. Assets/Liabilities: You need to know the value of your “marital estate.” Make a list of your and your spouse’s assets and debts.and what you believe the assets/debts are worth…This should include all of your assets and all of your liabilities, regardless of whose name the house, bank account or credit card is titled in. To the extent you have account statements or other documents (real estate appraisals, for example) to show the values, gather those together. Don’t worry if you don’t know or don’t have documents to back up your values. If you don’t have this information, your spouse will be required to provide it as part of the divorce process.
4. Income: Know your spouse’s income as well as your income and/or earning capacity. Get copies of tax returns, pay stubs, W-2 forms, K-1 Forms and 1099s. If you don’t have the returns and you filed jointly with your spouse, you can request them from your accountant. If you have been out of the paid workforce for a period of time, consider what education or training you will need in order to reenter the work force and what the cost will be. Consider talking to a career counselor.
5. Copy, Copy, Copy: Copy all financial information you can get your hands on, including bank statements, retirement account statements, deeds, mortgage statements, credit card statements, tax returns and all schedules, W-2s, pay stubs, etc. Try to get the statements going back three years. Again, don’t worry if you don’t have access to this information, as your spouse will be required to provide it once the divorce gets underway. Don’t bury your head in the sand. If you were never the spouse who handled the finances or paid the bills, dealing with the economic issues surrounding your divorce can often times be overwhelming. However, you cannot be paralyzed by it. Make every effort to compile and copy all financial information.
6. Expenses: Put together a budged so you can determine what it costs to maintain and live in the property you currently live in as this may help you decide whether it is realistic for you to remain in your current residence or seek replacement housing which you may better afford. You should also include your living expenses, such as food, clothing, entertainment, vacations, medical expenses, etc.
7. Be a photographer: Take photographs or a video (with a date stamp) of all artwork, jewelry and other valuable personal property. Often those items tend to “disappear” after a divorce action has been filed. You will then have a record of what existed. Also, if those items are insured, look at your homeowner’s insurance rider to see if the items have been identified and valued for insurance purposes. The insured value is not always the fair market value for divorce purposes but it may provide an estimate and most certainly will identify that the item existed.
8. Safe Deposit Box: Inventory the contents of any safe deposit box. Again, take pictures if valuable personal property is stored in the box.
9. Maintain the Status Quo: Do not drain funds from marital accounts (whether titled jointly or in your name alone) by spending the money or moving the money to a new account. A court will not look favorably upon you if you dissipate marital assets to the exclusion of the other spouse. Similarly your spouse should not do so either. If you find that your spouse is moving money around, you can seek a court order freezing the account, requiring him to provide an accounting of the funds and enjoining him from further dissipation.
10. Taking to Facebook and other social media outlets: While you may be upset with your spouse, social media is not the place to air your frustrations. Remember, anything you post may be used against you and nothing good can come of your bad-mouthing your spouse. Also, be careful about what you and/or your “friends” post about you on Facebook. Pictures of you hanging over a bar or downing shots will not bode well for your custody case.