If your marriage is about to end, here are five tips on what to do next and how to minimize the emotional and financial toll through the divorce process.
- Ensure that your financials are manageable. If you share a joint account with fixed expenses of rent/mortgage, utilities, etc., it’s important to keep it funded so that payments can continue throughout the process. If you have separate bank accounts and your monthly expenses are paid out of one or more accounts, establish a steady and consistent system. If you were just laid off, don’t continue paying all of the expenses out of your account and watch the funds dwindle. Speak with your spouse about establishing a fair, sustainable plan. The Court is likely to order that your method of payment for monthly expenses be the same throughout the process. If the money runs out, you’ll end up paying your lawyers thousands of dollars to figure it out. It’s cheaper and more efficient to create a system on your own before going to court.
- Get your financial records in order. Make a list of your assets, debts and expenses. If the divorce is contested, meaning that you’re unable to reach an agreement and the judge needs to make decisions, then you’ll need to produce discovery. The discovery process includes completing a critical document, called a statement of net worth. A general discovery list will include, but not limited to, three years of checking and saving bank statements plus credit card, brokerage, pension, 401K, mortgage, student loans and retirement statements. You’ll also need to provide copies of your title for automobiles.If you’re hurrying to obtain statement copies while in court, then the process can be more stressful, costly and lead to a less favorable outcome. If there is a deposition (a day when your spouse’s attorney asks you questions), be prepared to provide very detailed information about your answers on statement of net worth. Of course, an experienced attorney can prepare for the deposition, but the preparation will be much easier if your finances are organized well in advance.
- If you’re self-employed, make sure that your reported income makes sense. Many self-employed people have complicated stories about what they make. Example: “I drive a luxury car and my rent is $3,000 per month, but I only make $20,000 per year. My luxury car depreciates and I write off my rent as a business expense. “If the judge needs to do mental somersaults to make sense out of your income, then your account will likely not be deemed credible. As a result, your income is likely to be disregarded when orders of support are issued. Total your fixed monthly personal expenses (rent, utilities, car payments, etc.) and pay yourself a salary that allows you to pay your personal expenses without writing them off as business expenses.
- Make your life as simple as possible. This is not the time for a new relationship or starting a business venture. If you do, it can cost more to pay a lawyer by the hour to fight for you, because there will be more ways For problems to arise with your spouse. Keep your life as boring as possible until you settle your divorce.
- Don’t do stupid stuff. This sounds simple, but when people are really, angry and nervous, they tend to violate this simple principle.
–Don’t make false allegations about your soon-to-be ex, no matter how many times he or she threatens to take the kids away, leave you with no money, etc.
–Don’t ask your boss to remove you from the books because you’re about to get a divorce.
–Don’t hide your assets. If you think you’re being sneaky, you’ll regret it in the long run.
–Divorce is difficult, but an experienced attorney can provide sound advice to give you the best outcome.