A topic of hushed discussions or private contemplation between some soon-to-divorce is pre-planning for divorce. This covers everything from illicit/illegal activities (such as dissipating marital assets or hiding them) to meeting with a lawyer to specifically discuss your situation to pre-plan within the limits of the Divorce Act to some of the basics you can do yourself in most cases. This blog covers the three things every person considering divorce should do well before the divorce filing occurs.
First, most couples have some apportionment of daily household chores, such as who pays the bills and who mows the grass and shovels the snow. In most cases, one spouse knows more about the assets (retirement and savings accounts) and liabilities (credit cards, student loans, and mortgages and loans) than the other. The financial documents are the key to a fair divorce and good representation but have a unique way of going missing (paper or digital) or being blocked at the time of filing. Thus, a prudent spouse contemplating divorce should obtain a complete household financial set of records, including insurance policies and tax returns, and monthly bills before filing. Obtaining these through legal discovery methods later is expensive and slows down the divorce.
Second, personal (and sometimes necessary items to get through daily life) documents such as birth certificates (including the children of the marriage, if any), passports, pre- or post-nuptials (in particular), and DD-214s “magically” disappear after filing. At a minimum, a spouse contemplating divorce should make a copy of these documents or take a picture for future use.
Third, unique things or those hard to remember if you leave the house or are forced out or locked out, are almost impossible to reconstruct. For this reason, pictures of collections (such as guns and coins) should be taken and kept for this contingency. If the items have serial numbers or other ways to track, these too should be recorded. Without this documentation, it is nearly impossible to account for this in the divorce context. And if a spouse merely takes them and denies their existence, then it is he-said, she-said in court and even if the court believes these were taken or secreted, they are almost impossible to value.
These items are merely good insurance in the event of divorce and obtaining a fair and equitable settlement. If you have a large marital estate or complex assets and debts or there is a great disparity in income between spouse (i.e., one stays at home takes care of the children and the other is a high-income earner), a prudent spouse would be well served by meeting with an experienced family law attorney long before the marriage unravels and there is a filing to delve deeper in the divorce pre-planning. Divorce laws and the process of divorce is a complex legal transaction best served by preparing in advance. These three tips are the takeaway from this blog, easy to accomplish, and good “insurance” for a fair divorce.
This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle divorce cases of all types---from highly contentious custody cases to high asset marital estates—across the state. This blog is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation for legal services or legal advice. It is an advertisement.