Now that it’s almost mid-December, a lot of unhappy spouses are planning
for their January divorces. In many cases, people have family vacations
planned around the holidays or they just want to put their divorce off
until the first of the New Year.
If you’re serious about filing for
divorce in January, there’s still a lot that you can do to prepare yourself
for the divorce ahead. If you’ll be home with the kids over the
holidays, or if work will be slower than usual because of the holidays,
now may be a great time to get organized and mentally prepared for the
next six months or so, when your divorce is processing through the courts.
Here’s how to get your divorce started off right:
1. Educate yourself on the law.
The first thing you want to do is learn your rights and responsibilities
under the law. A lot of the frustration and stress of divorce has to do
with people not understanding the law. Also, when people don’t know
the law, they can make more mistakes, even before the divorce is started.
These are the areas to get familiar with:
2. Get organized.
We’re talking about your finances. If you’re not sure what
all accounts you and your spouse have open, we recommend running a copy
of both of your credit reports. Next, gather all the documentation for
your taxes and financial accounts and make copies of
everything. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage loans, investments,
retirement accounts, auto loans, CDs, stocks and bonds, real estate, etc.
If you are the “out spouse,” meaning a spouse who does not
handle the finances and who does not have access to the financial accounts,
be sure to tell your attorney at your first meeting. Let your lawyer know
that you are in the dark about your finances and that you are not entirely
sure of what your assets are.
3. Don’t hide assets.
One of the first things people do when they decide to get a divorce is
start moving money, transferring property, dissolving businesses, and
otherwise hiding assets. This is NOT a savvy asset protection policy.
California is a community property state, meaning you and your spouse
own all marital property equally.
If you engage in shady activities, it will not help your divorce and it
can turn the judge against you. Instead of taking matters into your own
hands, seek the advice of a divorce attorney. Your lawyer can help you
craft the best asset protection strategies.
4. Think about the house.
own a house with your spouse, now is a good time to think about what’s going
to happen to that asset. Are you going to stay? Can you qualify for a
mortgage in your name alone? Will your spouse buy you out or vice versa?
Should you sell it and split the proceeds? Or, is it a liability and are
you upside-down on it? In many cases, it makes the most sense for the
sell the house and split the proceeds down the middle or exchange another asset.
5. Think about the kids.
If you have minor children with your spouse, you’ll have to
think about child custody. Will one of you have the children most of the time with the other parent
paying child support? Or, will you work out a joint custody agreement
where you both have the children for equal amounts of time? If you are
both honest, loving parents and
domestic violence is not a concern, it may be in your children’s best interests to
Parenting Plan where both of you are actively engaged in the children’s lives.
6. Start planning for life after divorce.
Life after divorce will probably look a lot different than it does now.
For some spouses, the change is more dramatic than it is for others. If
you have been out of the workforce for some time or if you’ll have
to pay child or spousal support, you may need to focus on increasing your
income. In fact, many divorced spouses find themselves in situations where
they need to seek and create more income opportunities.
If this describes you, it’s wise to start putting the wheels in motion
now. If for example, you’ll be looking for a higher-paying job,
starting a trade or technical school, or earning your Master’s Degree,
now is the time to start preparing for the next step. This could mean
updating your LinkedIn profile, applying to a college, signing up for
online classes, or simply getting back in shape or updating your professional wardrobe.
7. Strive for a collaborative divorce if possible.
The single best way to drive the costs of a divorce down is to take a
collaborative approach.This means to treat your spouse with dignity and respect and to work together
to achieve an amicable, cost-effective divorce. If you have kids together,
this is crucial. The opposite of a collaborative divorce is a contested
one, and that’s no fun.
When couples are fighting and they cannot work together to reach a fair
marital settlement agreement, such cases often end up in divorce court. Litigated divorces take a lot
longer and they cost more in legal and court fees, which essentially drain
the marital estate. Most people would rather pocket that money than spend
it on litigation.
Sometimes though, there is
no choice but to go to trial. If your spouse is physically abusive, refuses to cooperate, is constantly
insulting you, calling you names and making your life miserable, a collaborative
divorce may be off the table. In that case, you need a skilled divorce
attorney by your side.
Changes to Spousal Support Laws
If you’re looking for a skilled and compassionate Los Angeles divorce lawyer,
contact our firm to meet with a member of our legal team for free.