If you are considering a divorce, you should understand that of all things in life; you should not rush into this process before putting forth some serious thought into whether or not this is the best decision for you and your family. While I cannot speak to your particular circumstances and whether or not a divorce is justified, the information that we discuss today will assist you in preparing for a divorce once you have decided that you need to move forward and divorce your spouse.
Once you hire an attorney, your responsibility to understand the issues and make decisions based on those issues does not go away. Your attorney is only a tool that you can use to carve out a successful outcome. Remember that ultimately what happens in your divorce affects you and your family. Your attorney is an advocate and a representative, but she cannot live your life for you or even make decisions. As such, you should begin to prepare for your case well in advance of actually hiring an attorney. Getting your literal and metaphorical house in order is the best way to prepare yourself for what is to come.
Make copies of essential documents that are in your home.
Go through your life now and begin to take care of things you may have been putting off. For starters, go through and make copies of financial documents like bank statements, 401(K) statements, insurance policies, and titles to real property. If you prefer, you can scan those documents and have electronic copies. Many clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will store those types of documents in the "cloud" but be aware that if you share an account with your spouse, it will cause suspicion to find those documents saved one day.
Update passwords to any necessary account or website that you access regularly online
With that said, go through and change passwords and begin to divest yourself of any connection to your spouse in banking, checking social media, and email accounts. We all have a friend or two who shares a Facebook profile with their spouse. While this may help keep one another accountable, it can present problems for a spouse going through a divorce. You should delete social media accounts altogether, if possible before any court orders appear that tell you that you cannot. When it comes to email accounts that you do not share with your spouse, make sure that your passwords are updated immediately.
Pull a copy of your credit report from the internet and take some time to review it.
A large part of your divorce case will center around finances. You may be a person who does not take much interest in your financial life, and that's fine. Nobody is forcing you to become an accountant. However, you should at least pull a copy of your credit report and look at it. Are there any credit accounts listed that you were unaware of? If so, it is possible that your spouse took out a loan or opened a credit card in your name without your knowledge. You will want to get that address in your divorce rather than to find out about it afterward after the court has issued orders in your case already.
Another benefit of pulling your credit report is knowing precisely what creditors need to be paid and how much is owed. Begin to think about how you believe a settlement could go about these issues and how you believe debt should be divided. In large part, the community property laws of Texas will dictate which debt goes to which spouse, but you and your spouse can decide amongst yourself a separate agreement if one can be reached.
Prepare a budget that you can live off of for the duration of your divorce case.
Budgeting needs to be a part of your life starting now, if it isn't already. A common concern I have heard expressed by clients has to do with the constricting nature of a budget. After years of living without one, won't creating a budget make it feel like you can't breathe?
Quite the opposite. A budget doesn't tell you what you cannot do. Instead, a budget tells you what you can do. Most people find that they begin to have more money to spend due to focusing on their spending. It's not that they get an immediate raise from their employer, but it is that you know exactly where your money is going once on a budget. This eliminates any opportunity for you to spend too much in any one area of your life.
A budget is critical when you are going through a divorce because you will have increased costs associated with your case (Attorney's fees, child support, etc.), and you need to make sure that you have money at the end of your month to pay bills. Getting on a budget now will help you do so after your divorce when you get back into the real world.
Do a wellness check and see your doctor/dentist/therapist.
Seeing a doctor and dentist before beginning a divorce is also a smart move. You may not have an opportunity to do so during your case, and now is the time to go as a result. Divorce is stressful, so any physical or mental issues you are battling will likely worsen during a divorce. Have them checked out before you start the process, and your body will thank you.
Inventory the items in your home in preparation for dividing them in your divorce
Do an inventory of the items in your home. Every family law attorney I know of will ask their client to fill out an inventory and appraisement. This document is done under oath and will be submitted to the court. You're run down of all the items you own, and your spouse will be included in this form.
Like the credit report suggestion, being aware of all the property you own and your spouse will allow you to plan how to divide these items up in the divorce. You will have some time to think about what you want to keep and what you are willing to allow your spouse to have. If you own valuable items, take note of each of them. You should take photos of each item, including where the item is kept in the house. If an item is removed, you can have your photo to refer to.
Take time for yourself- no matter how difficult it may seem to do so
You are being pulled in a thousand different directions at once when preparing yourself to file for divorce. If you thought your life was busy before now, you would double down on that belief as you move closer to the actual filing date.
With that said, make sure that you are taking care of yourself physically and mentally. This means eating healthy, getting exercise, and keeping yourself centered. Remind yourself that a divorce will take longer than just a week or two and that the experiences that you encounter will not always be pleasant. The bottom line is that you are doing this to better yourself and your family and that the end justifies the means no matter how difficult the times are that you face.
More tips and tricks in the field of divorce will be posted tomorrow
Please return tomorrow to the website for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, as we discuss additional methods for best preparing for a divorce. We hope that what you've read today will be helpful and can assist you in this difficult time.
If you have any questions about what you read, would like clarification, or seek some thoughts about your situation, please do not hesitate to call us. Our office offers free-of-charge consultations with a licensed family law attorney.