Important Steps to Take in Planning for Divorce
If you are considering a divorce, you should know that there are many steps you can take — even before you tell your spouse — that will help protect your rights and make the divorce process easier for you. This is a general list to help you get started.
- Take inventory of your assets and debts — Make a list or spreadsheet of every financial account (bank accounts, retirement assets, investment accounts), asset (real estate, cars, valuable art and/or jewelry) and debt (credit cards, mortgages, home equity accounts, personal and automobile loans). Make a note of whether each item is in your name, your spouse’s name or joint ownership.
- Gather your financial documents — Once you have your list of assets and debts, you should make sure you have the related documents. For financial accounts, that means at least 12 months of statements. For real property and vehicles, it means the closing documents (for proof of purchase price paid), the deed or title to each asset (for proof of ownership) and proof of insurance policies.
- Secure copies of your tax records — These include copies of the tax returns that you have filed as a couple for the past seven years. Tax returns are very important in the court’s determination of your income as a couple and can help identify investments that your spouse may fail to disclose to you during the divorce proceeding.
- Protect your electronic and documentary records — Change the passwords on all your accounts and devices to ensure your privacy and continued access. At the same time, it may be wise to confide in a trusted friend or family member and ask them to hold onto documentary records for you during the divorce.
- Plan for separation — If you still live with your spouse, you may need to plan on moving from the marital home or asking your spouse to move out. The situation is more complicated if you are raising children together. It can help if you prepare a proposed custody schedule and two-home budget before talking to your spouse.
- Control expenditures — You should continue to use marital funds for legitimate family needs (including your own) but avoid making unusually large expenditures or acquiring new personal debt. A divorce court can examine spending prior to the filing of a complaint to determine your standard of living for purposes of alimony and property division.
- Consult with an attorney — When you are ready to move forward with the divorce, contact an experienced Georgia family law attorney who will be able to look at your unique situation and give you individualized advice.
Whether your spouse agrees to the divorce or not, ending a marriage can be difficult for the entire family. The Law Office of S. Mark Mitchell, LLC in Newnan, Georgia has wide experience protecting spouses’ rights in divorce cases. Please call me at 470-344-8550 or contact me online to schedule a free consultation.