We all have family members or friends who have been through divorce. Although societal stigmas may still exist to some extent, divorce is far less scandalous these days, and often viewed as something that just happens to some couples. If you are divorcing, this is a healthy perspective for you to take and remember as you navigate the process and move forward.
Clients often say “Divorce is an emotional rollercoaster”, which is an incredibly accurate description. You pay a fee, stand in line, take your seat, strap in, lose control, get tossed about, and eventually come to the end. Here in Texas, however, we understand the difference between riding the Judge Roy versus the Texas Giant (a patron recently died riding the Texas Giant). While you may not avoid the ride, preparation can help dictate whether you are strapped in the Judge Roy or the Texas Giant. Remember, in divorce, preparation isn’t just power, it’s everything.
If you find yourself headed for divorce, you should consider taking the following steps to protect and prepare yourself:
- Know Your Assets & Debts – There should be nothing about your marital finances that you do not know. It may take some catching up, but so be it. Take steps necessary to get access to accounts, your financial advisors, your CPA, and get educated. Copy all year-end financial statements, work related (W2s, 1099s, 401(k), IRA, pension) and personal bank and investment statements. Run a credit report on yourself and your spouse.
- Separate your Non-Marital Assets – The dictionary would define non-marital assets as property considered by the courts to belong to one spouse or another and that which is not available for equitable distribution. Basically that just simply means they are not part of the assets divided in a divorce. Some types of these assets include: Inherited property; Items brought to the marriage or owned before the marriage; Gifts given specifically to one person as opposed to the married couple; Proceeds from personal injuries. Sometimes these non-marital assets can become mixed with marital. An example of this would be if an item such as a boat were purchased prior to marriage, and then sold during marriage in order to purchase another item such as a car. In situations like this, it is very important to have a traceable paper trail showing where the assets were and where they were transferred into to be able to claim it as a non-marital asset.
- Walk the Line – In other words, don’t do stupid stuff. Consider yourself to be under a microscope. No alcohol, no drugs, no questionable behavior. Put your love life on hold and stay single. Change passwords on all social media accounts and refrain from posting anything that would upset your children or spouse. In fact, it may be best to just avoid social media all together until the process is concluded.
- Focus on the Kids – If you have children, start listing parenting issues and visitation options. Be sure to inform yourself as to the children’s lives – who are their doctors, teachers, tutors, friends, and activities. Hopefully you already have a solid relationship, but if not – no better time than immediately to start spending quality time with your kids.
- Hire an Experienced Divorce Lawyer – Even by adhering to all these principles, the divorce process can be very confusing and difficult to manage. There is a large amount of information and guidelines that must be considered, which are often fact specific. For this reason, it is important to consult with and hire an experienced divorce attorney who will be able to walk you through this process and help protect your rights. Keep in mind that an experienced attorney can make sure you avoid mistakes that could make the ride a lot less bumpy.
Lastly, many people say they want to make this the last good holiday for the families. If that’s the case, respect each other, save the arguments for another day and try to start a new tradition for yourself this year. By doing that, next year will be easier and you will be on your way to making the best of your life the rest of your life!