Divorcing is usually a very emotionally stressful experience. At a time when you’re whole life is turned upside-down, it’s important to be thinking with a clear head. And the less you know about the divorce process, the more stressful it can be. To have a more positive divorce experience, we encourage you to read this article, which provides excellent information on surviving divorce.
When it comes to every aspect of divorce, it’s important that you know your rights and responsibilities under California law, especially as they pertain to asset and debt division, spousal support, child support, and child custody – you do not have to feel powerless when getting a divorce. Read on as we help prepare you for your divorce journey.
Be Prepared for Battle
At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we fully support the idea of a collaborative, amicable divorce, but at the same time, it’s important for clients to be prepared for battle. It doesn’t mean you need to be angry and bitter and treat your spouse with utter animosity – it simply means you need to be “prepared” for battle. In other words, don’t let your guard down. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of. Don’t say “yes” to everything your spouse wants just because you feel guilty about the divorce. Be rational, but don’t keep those defenses up.
Consult with an Attorney Before Filing
You may have just gotten in a huge blowout with your spouse and now you’re in a rush to get in court and file for divorce; please don’t. Before you file for divorce, do yourself a favor and consult with a divorce lawyer from our firm. At your initial consultation, we can discuss our fees, answer your questions, and provide the good advice you need early on.
We offer free consultations, so it doesn’t cost you a dime to get the pressing advice you need. Also, we recommend meeting with your accountant so they can explain the tax consequences of your divorce and any other issues regarding your retirement accounts, stocks, and other investments.
Consider the Timing of Your Divorce
When getting a divorce, it’s good to consider the timing. If you’re due for a bonus or a raise, you may want to file for divorce sooner than later because after you file for divorce, the money you earn is considered separate property. On the other hand, if your spouse is expecting a big bonus or a raise, you may want to hold off on the divorce filing.
Have you been in a long-term marriage, one that is almost 10-years-old? If you’re close to the 10-year mark, this is something to consider. You see, in California, a marriage of long duration lasts 10 years or longer.
If you’ve been married close to 10 years, it may be wise to stick it out until your next anniversary. Waiting until your 10th anniversary can help you access more Social Security on your spouse’s earning record after the divorce. Also, if you’re the lower-earning spouse, it could mean you’re entitled to spousal support for a longer period of time. But once you decide to divorce, be the one to file first. There are advantages to filing for divorce before your spouse does.
Make Yourself Indispensable
Before you file for divorce, make yourself indispensable. How? By making sure your name is on all utilities, bank accounts, investments, deeds of trust, etc. and make sure that all accounts need joint signatures. This way, you’re not in a vulnerable position and your spouse can’t move money or drain accounts without your signature.
In addition to the above, make sure you have your hands on all of your financial information. Make copies of all of your financial documents before they “suddenly disappear” after you file for divorce. We’re referring to tax returns, bank statements, mortgage documents, credit card bills, auto loans, life insurance policies, W-2 forms, loan agreements, etc.
If you have assets, track them all down. It’s important that you know exactly where every penny is. Such assets include bank accounts, real estate, investments, life insurance policies, stocks, bonds, jewelry, etc.
When you file for divorce, you and your spouse will have to disclose all of your assets and debts, however, it’s not uncommon for a spouse to be dishonest or less than forthcoming. California is a community property state so you are entitled to half of all the income and assets acquired during the marriage. Know what you’re entitled to.
Protect Your Credit
When you get a divorce, it’s vital that you protect your credit. Do not co-sign anything for your spouse. If you have any joint credit cards, remove your spouse from the accounts, pay them off or close them. You want to sever all financial ties if possible. Also, if any joint accounts survive the divorce for any reason and your spouse agrees to pay off a debt, be aware that by law, you’re still liable for the debt regardless of what the divorce decree says.
If your spouse fails to pay a joint debt after the divorce, it could ruin your credit. Keep tabs on any joint accounts after the divorce and make sure they are paid. Of course, the best solution is to eliminate all joint accounts before the divorce is final.
What should you do about your money? Don’t drain the bank accounts. Instead, separate the money. You can take half the money in your accounts so you have some funds to live off of – you don’t want your spouse to beat you to the money and take it all with them.
Next: Does Your Spouse Have an Unfair Advantage?
To file for divorce, we invite you to contact Claery & Hammond, LLP.