What you do before you file for divorce really depends on the type of marriage you had. How well do you and your current spouse communicate? Does your spouse seem secretive, like they’re hiding something? Despite the many factors that go into marriage and divorce, there are some basic issues you should tackle before filing your divorce petition.
Make Sure Divorce Is the Right Option
Divorcing your spouse is a huge decision. Is it right for you? For your children? How will you handle the divorce emotionally and financially? Can your marriage be saved? Consider all your options before starting a divorce proceeding.
Figure Out What Property is Yours and What Is Not
Make an inventory of your separate property and community property before announcing you want a divorce. Keep the inventory in safe place.
Find all your important papers. Some original documents, like your Will, should be placed in a secure place, like with a trusted friend or your attorney. Make copies of all other documents and store those in a safe place also. Most people hope their divorce will be amicable, but, of course, that’s not always the case. You don’t want your soon-to-be-ex walking off with your proof of property ownership, financial statements, and so on.
Make Financial Plans a Priority
Determine how much money is available now and in the future. Preparing a budget may help you cover your bills before and after the divorce is final. By looking carefully at your finances now, you may be able to head off problems down the road.
Begin to Establish Credit in Your Own Name
It’s entirely possible that your credit is closely linked to your spouse’s. Consider applying for small credit card or other types of credit in only your name.
Address Joint Accounts
It’s also possible you have joint accounts with your spouse, including bank accounts and credit cards. Take steps to avoid having your spouse run up large credit card bills that may be considered community debt. Since debt acquired during a marriage is usually considered to be the debt of both partners, you may have to pay half of the bill for your spouse’s spending spree.
As for bank accounts, make sure your spouse cannot close the account without your approval.
Check Out Your Estate Planning.
Hopefully, you have a Will and durable power of attorney. Talk to your estate planning attorney about changes that will be necessary. Some attorneys recommend changing your estate plans during and after a divorce.
Communication is Key
To make sure you are getting all your mail or that your mail remains private, you may want to open a post office box.
Stay in communication with friends and family. Not only will this provide some much-needed support for you, they can rest easier knowing you are okay.
Keep Your Own Actions Clean – and Private
Don’t engage in behavior that could get you in trouble during your divorce. Also, be very careful what you post on social media. In fact, you may want to swear off Facebook and Instagram until your divorce is final.
Consult with a Divorce Attorney
This is the most important advice on this list. Divorces can be messy. A California divorce attorney knows California divorce law. Many divorcing couples make mistakes that could be prevented by talking to an attorney before taking action.
You Don’t Have to Do This Alone
Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Marin County, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Our Beverly Hills office is opening soon.