- Copy Important Records: Make copies of important records such as tax returns with all schedules (at least three tax years), pay stubs, bank records (account statements and checking account registers), investment records, title/deeds for cars, homes, etc., and debt information such as credit card statements.
- Consider Your Immediate Financial Needs: It may be weeks or months before you begin to get financial assistance from your spouse. Consider how you will meet your financial needs in the interim. Make a budget and identify ways to reduce your immediate needs. Know what your debt payments are. Identify sources of emergency cash such as bank accounts, credit card cash/PLC advances, loans from family members, and loans against other assets such as IRA’s and 401(k) accounts. Be aware of any tax consequences or penalties that might be incurred if you withdraw retirement funds.
- Explore Your Alternatives: Will you be leaving your home or will your spouse be leaving? Who will the children live with? How will you afford new housing, including utility and rental deposits and moving costs? Do you have friends or family members with whom you can stay? Do you have suitable accommodations for overnights visits with your children?
- Protect Your Credit: In order to avoid liability for debts your spouse might incur without your knowledge, notify all of your creditors that you want the accounts canceled because you are separating from your spouse. You will no longer be responsible for your spouse’s future charges, however, you will still be responsible for past charges. The notification should be in writing (keep a copy).
- Consider What’s Best for Your Children: If you have children, think about their needs during this difficult period. Contact divorce support resources if necessary (these can be found through the child’s school, pediatrician, or community resources guides). Try to limit the amount of conflict the children are exposed to and do not involve them in the legal proceedings. If at all possible, let the children adjust to the separation before making changes to the child’s home, school, or other major support systems.
- Obtain Appropriate Legal Assistance: If you can afford a private attorney, plan how you will pay a fee retainer. Obtain recommendations from friends, professionals such as counselors, or community resource guides. Ask questions about the attorney’s hourly rate and fee retainer. Find out how long the attorney has been practicing family law, and what percentage of their practice is in family law. If you cannot afford to retain an attorney, identify your other options such as a volunteer ("pro bono") attorney, low-income legal resources, free attorney consultations, "do-it-yourself" seminars, software and books. You might also explore "unbundled legal services": having an attorney assist you with only portions of the legal proceedings (such as preparing documents that you will file on your own behalf) which will reduce your legal expenses.
- Educate Yourself and Your Children: Read books about the divorce process, talk to family members and friends, and know about the effects of divorce on children. Use age-appropriate explanations to talk with your children about what the marital separation will mean to their lives and what changes they can expect. Attend individual counseling or group sessions, if necessary.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
7 Tips if You are Considering Divorce
If you are considering a divorce or legal separation, the following are some tips to consider before you take any legal steps.