Evaluating divorce or another option in your marriage is emotionally taxing. It is emotionally draining, yet a freeing experience as well when you come to the realization that you do in fact want a divorce. The steps in this article are essential in your pre-divorce planning process. Now is the time to take sensical steps to prepare yourself, whether you are the one seeking divorce or you’re aware that your spouse’s filing divorce is imminent.
Pre-divorce planning is not analogous to vengeful or spiteful action. Preparation is not about finding a way to take your spouse for all they are worth or intentionally causing him or her pain during the process. You will not benefit from the following information, if you simply want to hurt your spouse. Rather, pre-divorce planning is about preparing yourself for a mental, emotionally, and likely physically difficult time in your life and being organized for the complex process you are about to face in your divorce.
Not surprisingly, statistics reflect that women suffer financially after divorce more than men do. As the average female’s income reduces by almost 50% following divorce in the United States. Whether you are the husband or the wife, preparing yourself mentally, emotionally, and financially before divorce is essential to protect your future and potentially your children, if there are minor children of the marriage.
What is Pre-Divorce Planning?
Pre-divorce planning is what the title implies, a plan for after divorce before you are divorced.
Preparation is key to success in almost every endeavor and this maxim holds true for divorce as well. No marriage, nor any divorce are identical. You and your chosen divorce attorney will not know how your divorce case will proceed, until it is actually happening. However, by thinking through the potential issues in your individual case, i.e. your spouse, your finances, the circumstances leading to divorce, you will be better prepared to identify potential problems in your divorce and possibly minimize or avoid them.
Outside of the steps to a pre-divorce plan outlined below, you should consider all of the following divorce issues that are applicable to you:
- Where do you want to live after you are divorced?
- Do you want to keep the marital home after divorce?
- Do you want to buy a new home after divorce?
- Divorce can be expensive; do you have the funds ready for a divorce?
- During the divorce, do you have resources for living expenses?
- What support alimony will you need during divorce?
- What support alimony are you willing or able to pay during divorce?
- Do you want your children to live with you full-time after divorce?
- What custody plan or visitation schedule will work for you?
- After divorce, how do you want to divide bank accounts?
- Do you want to keep all of your retirement after divorce?
- Do you have the means to buy out your spouse’s interest from an account they are entitled to a share of from the marriage?
Although this list brings up questions and issues that we could spend pages or hours discussing, they will not all be important or applicable to you. Therefore, it is wise to sit down and jot out your questions or concerns about the divorce process before meeting with an experienced divorce attorney.
Steps in Your Pre-Divorce Planning
1. Hire an Experienced Family Law Attorney
Divorce is highly emotional and the results can change your life, good or bad. It is crucial to find the right family law attorney and/or family law firm for your needs. You should begin researching family law attorneys before you have been served with divorce papers or feel you have to file your divorce immediately. You should ensure you are confident in the divorce attorney you hire and the family law team that will be handling your case.
Your Fierce Advocates™ at Cannon & Associates take a team approach to every family law client we have the pleasure of serving by weekly strategy meetings to discuss every client’s case and case status meetings as client’s cases progress through litigation. You will always have access to our Director of Client Care for any issue, with which you need assistance, as well as access to the client portal where all of the information on your case is easily accessed by you, wherever you are located.
2. Rent a Post Office Box
You need to identify an address where you can receive mail that cannot be intercepted by or tampered with by your spouse. Renting a post office box from the nearest U.S. Post Office is the easiest way to establish an address that your spouse cannot access. You may want to receive information in the mail prior to your spouse knowing that you are filing for divorce and a separate address is the only way to ensure that he or she will not be receiving mail, which you do not want them to see.
Additionally, a separate address, not accessible by your spouse will give you peace of mind that your new credit card or bank account information, correspondence with your divorce attorney, and other paperwork you want to remain private can do so.
3. Organize Your Records
Time is money in divorce litigation, for you and your chosen family law attorney. You can save yourself grief and obtain clarity of the issues, assets, and debts in your divorce by obtaining and organizing a copy of all records before notifying your spouse that you are seeking a divorce. It is far easier to obtain financial records and other important records when you have access to the accounts used by your spouse and the marital home, then after they are notified that you are seeking a divorce.
In addition to financial records, you should take an inventory of valuable possessions, assets, and the amount of debt in all loans and credit cards for you and your spouse. Once you have gathered all the records of your household’s finances, you will be able to provide them to your financial advisor and your divorce attorney for safe keeping. Technology is a great tool, so consider saving the records electronically in a location that your spouse cannot access, such as a new google drive or Drop Box.
4. Open New Accounts
You would be justified in withdrawing half of the value of each of your marital accounts before proceeding with filing the divorce. Whether you decide to take that amount of money or not out of joint accounts/accounts you can access, it is wise to secure enough funds to retain your chosen divorce attorney and sufficient funds to provide for your needs for the next few months. The process of identifying the funds you will need during divorce is easier, if you have developed a pre-divorce budget, as we discussed separately our website.
Opening a new checking, savings, and credit card account in your name only with the address of your new Post Office Box will give you the security to begin building your separate financial future. These three tools will give you financial security that will not be impacted by your spouse’s spending or the funds he or she gives you access to after learning of the divorce.
5. Create Emergency Divorce Fund
Whether you are concerned that your spouse may try to freeze your access to marital funds or not, it is wise to establish an emergency divorce fund to cover your living expenses for six months, if possible. You will be well prepared for the divorce proceedings, if you have saved money in a separate savings account. You will have a very difficult time hiring an experienced family lawyer if you do not have access to funds.
You may be susceptible to settle for less than what you are entitled to or less than what is fair in your divorce case, if you are unable to pay for your living expenses and you are waiting for the payout of a divorce settlement.
6. Adjustments to Legal Documents
You should modify the recipient of your will and life insurance policy, if you have them in place prior to filing for divorce. Additionally, if do not have an advanced healthcare directive or your spouse has authority under your current plan, you should change this as well to another person you trust with this decision-making authority. It is a complex process to attempt to disinherit your spouse; therefore, it is wise to consult with an estate planning attorney prior to making any changes that may or may not be enforceable.
7. Open a New E-Mail Account
Most married people at one time or another have had access to their spouse’s email account Even, if you believe your spouse cannot access your email account, it is wise to assume he or she can read everything in your email. In the technological age we live in, it is safe to assume much of your private information, including your divorce, will be held in your e-mail account. Therefore, it is wise to open a new e-mail account from a separate provider than your primary account. Open a google G-Mail account, if you use Yahoo or the reverse. You can have peace of mind that correspondence between you and your attorney will not be visible to your spouse, if he or she does not know about the existing of the account that you are communicating sensitive information on.
8. Social Media during Divorce
The topic of social media and divorce could fill up an entire book, but for the purposes here; be careful with your social media accounts. It is highly adviseable that you never discuss your divorce or spouse on social media, as the content is easily accessible and never destroyed. Additionally, you should change the password to all social media and other intern accessible accounts. Your spouse is not entitled to access this information and there is no time that a spouse would be more motivated to access your personal social media accounts, violate your trust, than when you are facing divorce. The best advice is to completely avoid social media during your divorce, after you change the password to something your spouse cannot guess. However, if you must tweet, snapchat, get on TicTok or Facebook, do so with discretion and change your passwords!
9. Talking to your Spouse
Few things in life are less comfortable than telling your spouse that you are filing for divorce. However, if it has come to that point, they likely suspected the conversation was coming at some point. It takes two people to get a divorce and it is often safe to say the other party was aware of your decision prior to your telling him or her that you were filing for divorce.
Although uncomfortable, your chances of an amicable or collaborative divorce are greatly increased if you communicate to your spouse about your decision and your desired outcome. A caveat to this advice, if you have a toxic marriage, are in danger of domestic abuse, or concerned your spouse will use information you provide against you, then you should leave it to your chosen divorce attorney and the family law firm you have hired to communicate that you are seeking a divorce.
However, if safe and sensible to attempt a collaborative divorce, you will have a higher likelihood of a smoother process and expend less on attorney fees and emotionally than a contested divorce.
Your Next Steps….
The end of a marriage is a difficult transition, especially once the case is filed and both sides stand across from each other. However, you can reduce your stress and increase your preparedness for your divorce case by following the nie essential steps in your pre-divorce planning discussed above.
When you make a pre-divorce plan, you will increase the likelihood of: a smooth divorce process and the protection of your interests, financial and otherwise. However as indicated here any almost anywhere else you look, you should not go it alone. When you are facing divorce, you need Your Fierce Advocates™ on your side, whether it is to simply stand as your counsel to answer your questions and concerns or to fight for you.
Cannon & Associates cares deeply about those facing divorce and the financial insecurity divorce brings in Oklahoma. Complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 405-657-2323 for answers to your questions about pre-divorce planning and divorce in Oklahoma. We look forward to being Your Fierce Advocates™.