At the start of a new year, it is not unusual for unhappy spouses to decide on a fresh start and file for divorce. If your spouse has announced his or her intention to take this step, you can assume he or she has already been thinking about it and perhaps making concrete plans for some time. This means you have some catching up to do if you want to protect your rights and your financial well-being.
Even if the divorce seems amicable at the start, it only takes a moment of suspicion or resentment for matters to turn adversarial, so it is not wise to enter this process without prudence, caution and a sense of self-preservation. Proactivity can minimize the chances that you will struggle financially in the months and years following the divorce.
Your first steps
Naturally, you will feel waves of emotion, from sadness to anger to confusion and probably others. However, it is critical that you understand and focus on the practical matters that are at stake. As difficult as it is to accept, you will have plenty of time to deal with your emotions but only a limited amount of time to ensure you obtain your fair share of marital assets. Therefore, you may want to create a list of important tasks to begin right away, including:
- Close all credit accounts that you share with your spouse to prevent him or her from adding to joint debt, for which you may be responsible.
- Obtain copies of your credit reports to ensure you have a complete picture of your financial status.
- Pay off as many joint debts as you can.
- Determine the jointly owned assets that should not be part of the property division.
- Ascertain the full amount of your spouse’s income.
- Request that your bank require signatures from both you and your spouse before withdrawals from your savings or investments.
You do not have to take any of these steps in a spirit of vengeance or resentment. In fact, the more positively you handle the divorce process, the smoother it is likely to go. That often means the hard part will be over quicker so you can start to rebuild your life. One way to improve the chances of reaching your goals is to have an experienced family law attorney at your side at the earliest possible moment after your spouse announces his or her intention to divorce.