Everyone can benefit from divorce planning, if only to make the processes faster and easier by having all of your documents and details readily at hand. But pre-planning for divorce will be particularly important for those who anticipate challenges – financial challenges, child custody challenges, personality disorders, or safety concerns.
How to Plan for a Divorce
If you’ve decided that your marriage cannot be saved, begin your marital exit plan with the following steps:
- Find a divorce lawyer
- Create a personal safety plan, if that may be needed
- Understand your finances
- Get your documents ready
- Line up your resources
- Minimize entanglements
Find a Divorce Lawyer Who Fits Your Needs
Most people start looking for a good divorce lawyer by asking friends and family for a recommendation. If you want to secretly pre-plan for divorce, it’s never been easier to find a divorce lawyer online.
How do you choose? Take a look at the kinds of divorces highlighted on the lawyer’s website. Does this look like a divorce attorney who handles complex cases? Who focuses on child custody? Who provides mediation services? Do they have significant credentials and certifications?
I’m Wayne Ward. You’ll see from my website that I am Board-Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. This is a certification that few attorneys have achieved. You will also see that I handle difficult contested divorces, complex divorces, and high-net-worth divorce. But I am also happy to help couples with uncontested divorce and those who want to use divorce mediation.
Once you’ve identified one or a couple of divorce lawyers who seem like a good fit, make an appointment to talk with the lawyer. You are looking for someone you will feel comfortable working with, whose advice you can rely on. Call my office at 817-789-4436 or contact my Fort Worth family law office to schedule a consultation.
Create a Personal Safety Plan
If you believe your partner has a personality disorder or could become violent or destructive upon learning that you have filed for divorce, be prepared with a personal safety plan. Consider whether you need to seek a restraining order and begin to document safety issues. Identify a shelter you could go to in case of emergency, or a family member or friend with whom you could stay.
Understand Your Finances When Planning a Divorce
If your spouse has been handling the money, now is the time to increase your understanding of your family finances. That’s one of the greatest benefits of starting to pre-plan your divorce.
- Watch your banking and investment accounts.
- If you haven’t had a budget before, start a budget now so you become keenly aware of your income and expenses.
- Check your credit score. You can get a free report from all three credit bureaus once a year. If you need to build your credit, consider getting a report from one service at a time, spaced out over the course of a year.
- Use an online real estate website like Zillow or Trulia to get a sense of the current value of your home.
- Photograph valuable assets and family heirlooms. If you are concerned that they could disappear, consider getting a safety deposit box. The purpose is not to hide a marital asset, but to safeguard those assets until they are considered in the final property division.
- Consider opening a checking account in your own name, with statements sent to a PO box. This will give you flexibility to pay for things during the divorce. Just know that the money earned during your marriage is a joint asset and even this separate account will be divided as part of marital property division.
- Work to pay off debts, overdue taxes and liens on your property and do your best not to take on additional debt by refinancing or remodeling your home. You want to have money on hand to get through the divorce process.
- If you think your partner has cheated on prior tax filings and could be audited, consider filing an amended return as married-filing separately.
- If you will be receiving an inheritance, do not put it into a joint account or use it to pay joint bills. Keep it separate.
Paying attention to these details will help you understand what your share of the marital assets may be and what you may need to earn or receive in spousal support. Some people even discover that their spouse has been hiding things from them.
Get Your Documents Ready When Planning For Divorce
You will want to make a copy of the following documents:
- Financial accounts: Savings, checking, credit cards, investment accounts, mutual funds, CDs, IRAs, Keogh plans, 401Ks, pension funds
- Insurance: Life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, umbrella policies. You will need to get these policies for yourself. You may want to investigate other insurance companies now.
- Titles: Property titles, vehicle titles
- Home documents: Mortgage information, home equity loans
- Estate planning documents: Wills and Trusts
- Tax returns: 3 to 5 years
- Pay stubs
Line Up Your Resources
It can give tremendous peace of mind to know everything is in good working order before you strike out on your own. Make sure your car is working well. Address home repairs now, if you can, so you don’t have to deal with the stress of a broken water heater or a leaky roof during a stressful divorce.
Take care of yourself, too. Get that medical and dental check-up; get those new glasses while you are covered by a spouse’s insurance.
If you don’t have a job, now would be a good time to start looking for a job or consider going back to school to get additional training. Spousal support is less common than in the past but it’s not uncommon for a family court judge to order an income-earning partner to help a non-working spouse retrain for employment.
Don’t forget your personal support system! Who, in addition to your divorce lawyer, can you count on to provide a listening ear and support in stressful times?
If you are not in a relationship with your “next partner,” avoid getting into a new relationship during your divorce. It can put your boyfriend or girlfriend in the hotseat for scrutiny during a child custody investigation. It can also affect the outcome of your child custody case, any spousal support you might receive, and possibly your property settlement agreement.
Contact Wayne Ward for Help Planning for Divorce
In my decades of experience as a Fort Worth divorce attorney, I’ve helped many hundreds of clients pre-plan for divorce and come through the process to start a new life. Call 817-789-4436 or contact my Texas divorce law firm online to schedule an initial consultation.
Se habla español. Spanish-language service is available.