Going through a divorce is difficult for so many reasons. The divorce process can be long and complicated and there are so many issues that need to be worked out including the division of property and financial assets, as well as child custody if there are children involved. Dealing with the divorce proceeding can be somewhat of a balancing act as you should have your own plan to protect yourself and your assets, yet you don’t want to be overly aggressive and turn the divorce into a long and messy legal battle.
In almost every divorce proceeding, both spouses hire divorce attorneys for legal advice and mediation to help resolve any issues that arise. It is to your benefit to hire a divorce lawyer to help you form a plan for the divorce proceeding to protect yourself and your financial future. This will help you keep your emotions in check and come up with a sound plan to follow throughout the proceeding.
The following are important steps you should take as part of the divorce planning process:
Create an Inventory of Marital Property
The division of marital property is one of the biggest hurdles in the divorce process. Marital property can include anything such as personal belongings, financial assets, income, real estate holdings, expenses, and tax benefits. You should create an inventory of your personal belongings and valuables including jewelry, tools, heirlooms, and others to protect them from being divided. Document your items with photos and keep evidence of the date of the photos to prove ownership. This provides protection for your assets if your spouse tries to claim that your property no longer exists or that it is not rightfully yours.
Keep all documentation of your property and assets somewhere safe where your spouse cannot get to it. You can keep this documentation with a close friend or relative, at work, or stored electronically.
Control your Finances
Once the divorce process begins, it is important to get your finances under control. The divorce process can be expensive, so you must curb your monthly expenses to ensure you have enough to live off of during the process. Start by determining your monthly income and expenses to get an estimate of your regular monthly budget. Review what you spend money on each month and cut expenses that are not necessary such as cable subscriptions or going out for lunch. This will help you create a tighter monthly budget to get through the proceedings and ensure that you can handle a lengthy divorce proceeding if necessary.
Open your Own Financial Accounts
It is common for married couples to have joint bank accounts that are under both names. As soon as you decide to file for divorce, you should set up your own separate bank accounts if you have not done so already and stop using your joint account. If you want to hide your new bank account from your spouse, there are several ways you can do this. One way is to create an account with online access and electronic statements so your spouse won’t see the physical statements arriving in the mail. Creating a new email account to receive online statements will give you some added security.
You can also hide your new bank account from your spouse by using a friend or relative’s address as the mailing address for the account. You will have to give the bank your real address to open the account, but you can set up a separate mailing address. This will allow you to receive statements in the mail without alerting your spouse.
Don’t Make Quick Decisions
The decision to get divorced should never be taken lightly because it is such a life changing decision. There are major social and financial implications that must be fully considered when filing for a divorce. It helps to understand the laws regarding marital property and how you can protect your own assets. You should also avoid making quick financial decisions. Emotions are typically running high during a divorce and this can cause people to make terrible financial decisions. You must look at the situation clearly and avoid impulse actions that could be detrimental to the divorce proceedings or your financial future.
Mistakes to Avoid During the Divorce Planning
As discussed above, going through the divorce process brings out strong emotions that must be held in check to get through the process as smoothly as possible. Letting your emotions get the best of you can lead to financial decisions and behaviors that are detrimental to the process. The consequences of the following behaviors will not only affect the outcome of the divorce, but also continue to impact your life long after the divorce is settled.
Developing a Threatening Attitude
It is normal for one or both parties of the divorce to be emotional during the proceedings. The circumstances behind a divorce can bring out intense feelings that are difficult for some people to handle. This can cause those going though a divorce to act out in various ways to try to get revenge on their spouse. Taking a threatening approach to the divorce planning will usually make the process more complicated and cost you more of your time and money. There are cases in which a spouse should be dealt with harshly, such as in cases of abuse. However, you still must follow the proper protocols for dealing with an abusive spouse in a divorce. You should never develop a threatening attitude purely out of frustration or disappointment with your spouse.
You can get through your divorce in a non-threatening manner with the following actions:
- Keep the children out of it: Family law attorneys and counselors always recommend that divorcing couples keep their kids out of the divorce as much as possible. However, this advice is not followed nearly as often as it should be. Too often, a spouse may threaten to deny custody or restrict the other spouse’s role in their children’s lives. This type of threat will certainly make the divorce process longer, more hostile, and more expensive.
- Do not threaten your spouse’s quality of life: There are many ways that angry spouses try to ruin the lives of their exes including restricting assets or visitation and cutting off child support or other owed expenses. Once again, this type of behavior can make the divorce process much worse for both parties than it needs to be.
Engaging in this type of threatening behavior is petty and there is a very high risk that it will backfire. Judges do not look favorably on this type of behavior during the divorce proceedings and may end up awarding your spouse a bigger settlement than if you took a more respectful approach.
Recklessly Dealing with Finances
The division of financial assets is one of the most contested issues in a divorce, second only to child custody. A spouse may use financial matters to intimidate the other spouse and extend the divorce process, costing both parties more of their time and money. It is also common for a spouse to misreport their financial assets and income to avoid turning over certain assets and secure smaller alimony payments.
One of the most common ways people mess with their shared financial assets is to raid all shared bank accounts and credit cards. Draining a shared account and maxing shared credit cards may reduce your spouse’s access to their financial assets and make it more difficult for them to hire an attorney, but there are serious consequences for this behavior. These financial transactions are easy to trace and once they are revealed in the proceedings, you may experience the following consequences:
- A divorce settlement more favorable to your spouse
- Higher fees for legal representation
- Higher alimony payments
- An audit of your finances ordered by the court
Hiring a Divorce Attorney
When going through a divorce, it is crucial that you hire an attorney with the experience and legal expertise to help you through the divorce process. Our trusted and experienced family law attorneys at Allen Gabe Law, P.C. can provide advice and guidance through your divorce proceeding and help you with the divorce planning so you can effectively protect the assets that are rightfully yours. Our attorneys will also help you avoid the behaviors described above that can result in negative consequences or protect you if your spouse is engaging in these negative behaviors. The divorce attorneys of Allen Gabe Law, P.C. will remain dedicated to resolving your divorce in the smoothest way possible.
Contact our family law attorneys at Allen Gabe Law, P.C. by calling (847) 241-5000, Ext 121.
Note: Individuals should not rely on the information contained in this article when making decisions regarding legal matters but should consult with a qualified attorney for legal advice.