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Getting Started on Your January Divorce

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Are you planning on filing for divorce in January, after the holidays are over? If so, you’re not alone. Every January, divorce law firms across the country enter into their busy season. Usually, on January 2nd like clockwork, the phones at divorce attorneys’ offices start to light up like Christmas trees. Then, from January through May, there is a flurry of divorce filings and things pick up again in September, after school gets back in.

Why is January such a hot month for divorce filings? For most people, it’s because they don’t want to upset their kids during the holidays. Usually, unhappily wed couples will let their children enjoy “one more holiday season as a family” before they file for divorce. Then, once the mad rush of the holiday season is done and over with, couples start to schedule their initial consultations with divorce lawyers.

If you’re planning on file for divorce in January because it’s on your list of New Year’s resolutions or because you want to get the holidays out of the way, you have plenty of company. But, there’s still a lot that you can do in December to start preparing for your divorce, even if it’s all emotional preparation more than anything else. In this article, we provide some tips and advice so you can start preparing for your January divorce.

1. Get Educated on California’s Divorce Laws
Knowledge is power and that is definitely the case for divorce. You can eliminate a lot of your fear of the unknown by educating yourself on California’s divorce laws relating to child custody, child support, spousal support, property and debt division. You can scroll through our website and blog to find detailed answers to a lot of your pressing questions.

2. Run Both of Your Credit Reports
When you file for divorce, you’ll need to know all about your debts. Our advice is to run both of your credit reports. Crosscheck the credit reports and make sure you’re fully aware of every credit card and every loan. Look at the balances and pay attention to how much you pay each month on all of the accounts.

3. Get Out of the Dark if You’re the Out Spouse
If you’re the “out spouse,” the spouse who is in the dark about your finances, it’s time to get up close and personal with your annual taxes, bank account balances, investments, credit card debt, auto loans, mortgages, life insurance policies, real estate holdings, and all other assets and debts. It’s very important to do your homework so you know where you stand financially. If you feel that your spouse is hiding income or assets from you, ask an attorney about adding a forensic accountant to your divorce team.

4. Avoid Wasteful Dissipation of Marital Assets
As you mentally prepare for divorce, avoid the practice of wasting marital assets, also known as “wasteful dissipation of marital assets.” In other words, you don’t want to waste or squander marital assets just before you file for divorce. Why not? Because, if you do, your spouse can bring it to the judge’s attention and you could be held liable for 100% of the debt or for the money spent.

Examples of wasting marital assets include racking up credit card debt, buying plastic surgery, buying a fancy sports car, going on a solo vacation, spending money on a boyfriend or girlfriend, gambling, giving money away to friends or family, or otherwise spending money on something frivolous that is just for yourself.

5. Consider Being the One to File for Divorce
Have you and your spouse agreed to file for divorce after New Year’s Day? Whether or not you have discussed it, there are advantages to filing for divorce. For one, you’re in control and you’re being proactive instead of “reacting.”

You can be calm, methodical, and calculated when you’re the one to file for divorce. The idea is to feel confident about your divorce and like you have the upper hand, even if all that means is that you did your homework and you fully understand what you’re up against when you file the divorce papers. If you’re blindsided by your spouse’s divorce filing, it’s just not the same experience.

Related: What Not to Say to Your Spouse When Discussing Divorce

6. Decide to Play it Cool
Divorce is often a very emotional event, even when it’s absolutely the right thing to do. As you decide to divorce, do your best to play it cool. This means to be polite, respectful and cordial to your soon-to-be-ex, even if they have been cheating on you or they have been manipulative and controlling.

Essentially, the more you’re able to treat your divorce like a business transaction, the better. The goal is to avoid costly litigation if at all possible, because that is not only stressful, but it can drag your divorce through the courts for months if not years. Even if you do find yourself crying or feeling very angry, try to keep your emotions out of your divorce-related decisions because you don’t want to do something you’ll later regret.

7. Prepare Your Financial Documents
During your divorce, you’re going to have to provide all of your financial documentation. Now is the best time to start gathering all of your financial records and making copies for your divorce attorney. Such records include taxes, mortgage papers, credit card statements, investments, auto loans, life insurance policies, estate planning documents, etc.

Next: 7 Tips for Negotiating a Divorce Settlement

When you’re ready to file for divorce, reach out to our divorce firm for a free, confidential consultation. We can be reached at (310) 817-6904.

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