A divorce is a life changing event, especially if you have children. You need to properly lay the groundwork before the process starts so it might go more smoothly and faster. Given how expensive it is to live in the Fairfax, Virginia, area, planning ahead financially is very important. Here are some suggestions on preparing for a divorce.
Do you need a divorce?
Decide if this is something you really want to do. Is there no hope for your relationship? Counseling may be worth a try. Once the divorce process starts it may be difficult, if not impossible, to try to get the relationship back on track.
Talk to an attorney.
Learn about your legal rights and responsibilities. Talk in detail about your situation, the problems you are facing, your financial status, your assets and debts. If you have children talk about your goals, for them. Do you think the divorce will by amicable or hard fought? What are the issues the attorney sees that could be problematic for you?
Make copies of important documents including tax returns, bank statements, investment account information, retirement account balances, employee benefits descriptions, life insurance policies, mortgage documents, credit card bills, wills and Social Security statements. If your spouse owns his or her business get as much information as possible about its finances, assets and debts. Some of these documents may be electronic; put them on a thumb drive. Be cautious about using cloud based storage if you or your spouse use family sharing or share passwords.
Create an inventory of important household and family possessions.
Write down the furniture, artwork, jewelry, appliances, automobiles, computers, electronics and contents of any safe deposit boxes. Include, as best as you can remember, when they were purchased and for how much. Consider taking pictures of important items
Write down your household budget and expenses.
Go through your check register or print out your online bank account information. How much are you spending on what? Keep track of how you spend your cash as well.
How much is the family in debt? How is it being handled?
Look at your family’s debt and think whether it makes sense to pay it down before the divorce. Splitting up who gets what debt and how much can be very contentious. How much debt was incurred before the marriage? Who is likely to be responsible for paying the debt after the divorce?
How much does your spouse earn?
If your spouse has a “regular” job, it’s easy to find out (tax returns). If he or she has a business, earns cash, or is not properly reporting his or her income for tax purposes, it’s more difficult. Your spouse may also be planning for the divorce and secretly putting away income he or she hopes you won’t find.
What’s your earning potential?
If you needed to support yourself (and a portion of your children’s expenses) how much could you make? Be realistic, especially if you have been out of the workforce for a while or put your career in neutral in order to handle family responsibilities. Look for help wanted ads. Talk to a placement agency. Do they have any jobs you could fill? What do they pay? If not, what does the person think someone with your qualifications could make given the job market?
What’s your credit history?
If you lack a credit card in your own name, get one and use it to establish your own credit history. If your credit history isn’t good, try to pay off your debts to improve your credit score before your divorce.
Create a financial cushion.
If your spouse leaves and stops helping to pay the bills, you will need to pay them yourself until a temporary support order can be entered. If you are filing for the divorce you will need enough money for a retainer.
Put your kids first.
This isn’t a good situation for either spouse but it’s probably worse for your kids. Keep up your children’s routines as much as possible. If the two of you are living separately, put together a schedule so your children can spend time with both of you (and if you have time alone you can spend it with your support network, have some fun and put in the time needed to do everything on this list). Stay involved in their after school lives and don’t verbally dump on your spouse.
For a Fairfax, Virginia, divorce attorney who has the knowledge and training to help you through a divorce, contact ShounBach today. If your case calls for an aggressive litigator, we have attorneys with extensive courtroom experience who can provide you with vigorous representation and defense. We also have skilled collaborative attorneys and mediators who can help you achieve a cooperative resolution. If you have questions about the divorce process and applicable laws, call us at 703-222-3333 or fill out our online contact form today.