10 Things to do Prior to a Divorce

If you’ve reached the point in your marriage that divorce is unavoidable, there are certain steps that we recommend taking to protect yourself, not only in the present, but far into the future as well. Divorce is never easy, but thankfully there are some moves that you can take to protect yourself and your assets, to make the situation less stressful, and to limit animosity with your spouse. Keep in mind that Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that you cannot dispute whether or not the divorce should take place, but rather only to the division of assets and potential support.

Step 1: Contact a Divorce Lawyer

While, we might be a little biased when it comes to emphasizing how important it is to hire a lawyer for your divorce, it is nonetheless an important first step in the process. Meeting with an attorney will allow you to get a feel of how the process is going to work, what you can expect in the long run, and provide you with valuable advice on how to proceed.

Initial consultations should always be free, be wary of any attorney or law firm that wants to bill you for the initial consult. Consultations are just as important for the attorney as they are for the client, attorneys should not blindly accept cases without knowing if they would be a good fit for the client and the special circumstances of the case. Even if your divorce is uncontested, it is still suggested to use an attorney because of the complex and permanent nature of documents and agreements made during the proceedings.

Step 2. If You Own a Home, Contact a Realtor

For most people, their most valuable asset is their home. Unfortunately, when it comes to divorce the marital home and other properties often becomes a point of contention between the parties. It is sometimes necessary to sell property, refinance property, or otherwise divide equity from homes and property.

It is important to get ahead of the curve when it comes to property valuations and determining both home equity and market value. To get a better idea on where you stand when it comes to property, it is a good idea to contact a real estate expert. Dwellings by Rudy and Hall is our agency of choice. Dwellings will be able to provide vital information regarding marketability and values as related to your property. If selling of the property becomes necessary, they will be able to aggressively market your property to ensure maximum profitability.

Step 3. Research assets, accounts, and other financial information

It is very important to know the extent of your estate and finances prior to filing for divorce. We suggest keeping track and obtaining accounts statements for all financial accounts, including accounts related to retirement, stocks and bonds, business accounts, checking/savings, and consumer credit cards.

This information is important in that it helps to provide both yourself and your attorney with a clear record of assets and liabilities.

Step 4: Document Everything You Can

Document everything, even it if seems unimportant at the time. Keep detailed notes and information related to financial accounts, changes in spending habits, verbal or physical abuse, neglect of children, or anything else that seems like it might come up during potentially non-amicable divorce proceedings. You never know what information might be useful if the divorce becomes a battle. It is important to protect yourself from day one, and keeping a journal or diary of events can play a pivotal role down the road.

Step 5: Change Your Will and Medical Power of Attorney

If you have a will or medical power of attorney it is wise to have these documents amended prior to filing for divorce. The last thing you want is your soon to be ex-spouse making medical decisions on your behalf should you become sick or incapacitated. You probably do not want your soon to be ex named as an heir in your will, now is the time to change it.

Step 6: Start Keeping Separate Money

Many married couples commingle finances, which can cause issues with expenses that may arise during a divorce. It is important to begin separating your finances from those of your spouse. We suggest opening a new saving and checking account in your name only. Start using these new accounts for paychecks or income that is coming in. Use these accounts to pay for your personal expenses and for your share of combined expenses. Setting yourself up financially for the future is crucial to well-being during these difficult times.

Step 7: Figure Out Your Living Situation

Depending on the situation it may be required of you to leave the marital home. This might be because of a court order or other contentious events occurring during the case. It is important to have a backup plan on where you can stay if things come to this point. We suggest talking with close family and friends about possible living arrangements. This will be helpful if it comes to the point that it is either required or in your best interest to leave the marital home.

Step 8: Secure Personal Heirlooms and Firearms

It is important to remove firearms and other personal heirlooms, such as jewelry, from the marital home prior to the commencement of a contentious divorce. This is done to not only protect yourself from allegations of possible misconduct, but to also protect yourself from potential violence from the other party. We also recommend securing personal heirlooms which can easily be taken, hidden, or destroyed. This helps to ensure your safety and the well-being of irreplaceable items.

Step 9: Cancel or Remove Yourself from Joint Credit Cards

Most married people have entwined finances, there are joint accounts, joints credit cards, and other debts that may be in both parties’ names. In order to protect yourself from debt racked up by your spouse prior to the judgment of divorce, but after the filing of divorce, we encourage clients to remove themselves or cancel joint credit cards prior to the onset of the case.

Step 10: Have a Support Group in Place and Take Care of Your Health

Divorce is stressful, difficult, and often time seems overwhelming. It is important to have family, friends, or other trusted people that you can open up to for support throughout the entire process. It will be beneficial to your mental and physical state to have trusted people to consult with and to share your thoughts and feelings with during your divorce. Feelings of guilt, remorse, and sorrow are perfectly normal, but it is important to not let these feelings overwhelm you. Always remember that you will get through this difficult time and that a brighter future awaits.