For many couples, divorce is a long time in the making. Whether the divorce results from years of growing hostility or resentment or comes shortly after a major blowup, most people know that a divorce is imminent for weeks or even months in advance. If you are thinking of divorcing your spouse, or believe that your spouse will be filing for divorce soon, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from the fallout.
Take an Inventory
During a divorce, all property that a couple purchased during a marriage will be split equitably between the couple. Many people are unable to list every item that they own without taking an inventory, and it can be especially difficult to remember what the family owns if one person moves out of the residence.
Before filing for divorce, make a list of all property and real estate that was purchased during the marriage. Additionally, take pictures and list the pertinent details of any particularly valuable items like antiques or jewelry. This type of inventory creates a paper trail which documents the couple’s property and makes it hard for a spouse to conceal assets later on.
In many marriages, one spouse manages the family’s finances. If this is the case, the other spouse may be completely in the dark about the state of the family’s financial affairs. As a result, he or she may not know exactly what the family owns and owes.
For that reason, it is important to make copies of any important documents before the divorce begins. Look for copies of tax returns and property records, including deeds, mortgages, and leases. Additionally, financial documents like bank account statements, investment and retirement account statements, and credit card statements can be used to get an accurate picture of the family’s financial state.
Finally, be sure to check for any financial information stored on the family’s computers. Many people do most of their financial business or accounting either online or with computer software, and it is useful to have a copy of the computer files in case they are destroyed after the divorce.
It is always important for each spouse to have access to his or her own money, and this is especially true when a divorce is imminent. Many people worry that if the divorce begins, they will be cut off from access to joint bank accounts, or that their partner will empty these accounts in order to punish them for filing for divorce.
If this occurs, the spouse can be held responsible in court. However, this problem may take days or even weeks to correct, which will not help out the other partner in the short term. If you know a divorce is coming, make sure you have access to enough money to survive for a few weeks. Open your own bank account, and start separating enough money to take care of your needs. If you share a joint account with your partner, do not empty the account completely, and never withdraw more than half of the funds in a joint account.
Consult an Attorney
Even with the best preparation, the divorce process is confusing, emotional, and difficult to manage alone. Without the help of an experienced divorce attorney, most people will forget important steps which could have helped them prepare for their case.
If you are contemplating divorce, schedule a consultation at Pacific Northwest Family Law. Our Washington State family law attorneys can help you take practical steps to move your divorce forward, and can help you prepare for any potential problems in your case.
For help with your situation, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.