It may sound calculating and cold, but if you are thinking about filing for divorce, you can protect yourself before retaining a DuPage County divorce attorney. This is especially true if your spouse has been the one paying the bills and managing the household finances. Divorce is an emotional life-changing experience and you cannot predict how your spouse will react. By following these 10 suggestions, you are protecting yourself in the event your spouse becomes uncooperative and behaves irrationally such as closes bank accounts, cancels credit cards, or attempts to hide assets. Doing these 10 things before you file for divorce may also help shorten the length of the divorce process, save you thousands of dollars in legal fees, as well as help you prepare for the future.
1) Is it really over? Decide if the marriage can be saved. Although marriage counseling is expensive, it’s a lot cheaper than going through a contested divorce. Only you can make this decision. If you are unsure, you should consider individual counseling to help you figure out what you really want and what is best for you and your children.
2) Do you know your finances? Make sure you know everything about you and your spouse’s financial situation – all sources of income and investments, assets and debts. It is not uncommon for one spouse to handle all the finances and the other spouse to have nothing to do with the finances of the household. If you have been dependent on your spouse to handle the investments and pay the bills, it is imperative that you get up to speed as quickly as possible. You could start by reviewing all of your expenses for the past year and making a budget, which leads to the next suggestion.
3) Make a budget. Figure out exactly what your household expenses are so you can figure out how much income you need to support yourself. You might want to start by writing down every penny you spend every day so you can create a realistic budget. Another good way to start drafting a budget is to look at every check you and your spouse have written over the past couple of months. Don’t forget to include annual expenses such as insurance.
4) Start saving money. If you do not have your own bank account, open one and start saving money in your own name that you can use to pay your attorney fees, as well as monthly expenses in the event that your spouse restricts your access to money after you announce your plans to divorce. If you want to move out while the divorce is pending, you’ll need money to pay for an apartment. Make sure you have enough saved to pay for a security deposit and the first and last month’s rent.
5) Copy documents. Unfortunately, you cannot predict how your spouse will react when you tell him or her you want a divorce. By having copies of all financial and investment documents, you will save a tremendous amount of time and money if your spouse becomes uncooperative or attempts to hide assets. Make copies of all financial and investment documents including tax returns, pay stubs, bonus checks, bank account statements, check registers, investment account statements, retirement account statements, brokerage account statements, IRA statements, pension documents, life insurance policies, social security statements, employee benefits handbooks, mortgage documents, credit card statements, wills, titles, deeds, computer files from Quicken or other accounting software, etc.
6) Obtain a copy of your credit report. It is important that you know what joint debts and credit cards you and your spouse have. If your spouse has a spending problem, cancel joint credit cards or at a minimum, call the credit card company and put a spending limit on the card since you are liable for debt incurred during the marriage. If possible, pay down marital debt before filing for divorce. Getting a copy of your credit report is your first step towards understanding your complete financial situation.
7) Establish your own credit. If you don’t have your own credit card, apply for one now and start building your credit. Make sure that you are able to pay off your credit card balance each month so you don’t get yourself saddled with credit card debt (debt which you will likely be assigned as your responsibility to pay in the divorce).
8) Start rebuilding your resume if necessary. If you are not employed or your spouse has been the breadwinner, start thinking about how you could support yourself if you were divorced. How can you acquire employable skills as quickly as possible? Can you go back to school? Are there training classes you can take? If you have been out of the workforce for a while, seek out volunteer or part-time employment opportunities – anything that can help your resume look current. You probably hate hearing this, but the best way to find a job is truly through “networking.” Start networking, which just means keeping in touch with old friends and acquaintances and making new friends and acquaintances, using LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. and join community or social organizations so you can tap into contacts down the road when you are looking for employment.
9) Be polite to your spouse. Even if the love is gone, being respectful and polite to your spouse may help you reach a divorce settlement faster and keep your attorney fees to a minimum.
10) Consult with an attorney. Start looking for a DuPage County divorce attorney. It is important that you retain an experienced attorney that you trust and like. The best way to find a good attorney is by asking someone who has been happy with the attorney they hired for their own divorce. Check online reviews of an attorney you are considering. There are hundreds of attorneys out there so be sure you pick the best one for you! Make sure you agree with their approach to handling divorce cases. If you want an attorney who is going to try to keep your litigation costs to a minimum, you may not want to hire an attorney who advertises “aggressive representation.”
Contact Erlich Law Office at (630) 538-5331 to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable divorce attorney.