What’s love got to do with it? Based on divorce statistics, love has nothing to do with January. Due to a spike in divorces, the first month of the year is known as “Divorce Month” throughout legal circles. But, why? Simply put, many couples are just waiting for the winter holidays to pass. They don’t want to spend the holidays answering questions about where their spouse is; it’s easier on the children to wait; and there is never extra money around Christmas to hire an attorney, unless you or your spouse just received that big year-end bonus you were expecting. Regardless of the reason, January is just a pure reminder that love is nothing but a second-hand emotion.
Preparation is key when filing for divorce. Here are 10 crucial tips to consider in anticipation of divorce:
- “Who is going to pay for what” until the divorce is final? Try to have a conversation with your spouse about joint bills and marital expenses. The water bill isn’t going to pay itself.
- “Who is going to live where” after the divorce is final? While the divorce is pending? It is important to analyze all financial consequences when making this decision. Who is moving out? Who is staying in the marital residence? If you are renting, are both parties on the lease? Will the landlord revise the lease if one spouse moves out? Do you need to take your name off of any utility accounts or transfer them into your own name? If you are a homeowner, are both parties listed on the mortgage(s)? Is the home jointly-titled? When was the last appraisal (this is not a property tax assessment)? How much equity is in the home? Are there any liens on the property aside from the mortgage(s)?
- Do you want to sell the home? Is it market-ready? What repairs are necessary? You will need to reach out for bids and quotes for any repairs. If you want to keep the home and your spouse is also on the mortgage(s), can you refinance the balance of the mortgage(s) into your own name? It is recommended that you contact mortgage lenders to prepare for a refinance. Will you be able to pay all of the household expenses yourself plus the mortgage(s)? If there is no agreement on who will live in the house or whether the house will be sold, then dig in your heels and stay put in the home until it is figured out. You can do it.
- If you have children, then you need an agreement for parenting time before you relocate. If you cannot agree on a parenting time schedule, then you may want to consider remaining in the home until you do. There is no guarantee you will see your children when you want and the other parent will dictate your schedule. You should request parenting time on a regular basis and contact your children at reasonable times – even if this involves calling the other parent to get your child on the phone. Depending on your financial situation, you may be expected to pay for some of the children’s expenses, or pay money directly to the other parent as a form of child support. Any payments you make on behalf of your children, whether directly or to the other parent, need to be documented. Make your life easier and keep receipts and copies of checks for all expenses you incur until the divorce is final.
- CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS. Anything with a password needs to be changed: email, bank accounts, credit cards, loans, retirement/investment accounts, utility bills, employee access accounts, cell phone account, social media accounts, to name a few. You should also consider setting a security passcode on your cell phone and personal computer if you think your spouse is snooping around.
- Start to separate your bank accounts. Open an individual account in your name only. If you have a joint account with your spouse that is used to pay bills, then you need to discuss with your spouse (and/or attorney) how to separate your incomes or direct deposits to ensure all of your bills are getting paid.
- Gather all financial documents possible. You will need everything… Tax returns, W-2’s, bank statements, credit card statements, real estate deeds, mortgage statements, loan statements, student loan statements, utility bills, medical bills, cell phone bills, auto insurance plans, health insurance benefits summary, retirement accounts, investment/sock accounts, life insurance policies, statements for whole-life policies with a cash value, jewelry appraisals, child care statements, and statements for any accounts titled in your children’s names (such as 529 accounts). Be prepared with any other document reflecting an account, piece of property, or debt that is in your name or your spouse’s name. You will also need a current vehicle fair market valuation from a website like Kelley Blue Book online.
- Run a free credit report using your social security number to make sure there are not any hidden or forgotten accounts that should be discussed in the divorce. You want to be as thorough as possible.
- Refrain from posting to social media while your divorce is pending. Don’t be that person. Set your privacy settings to the highest protection available to prevent your spouse and any mutual friends who are personal acquaintances of your spouse (your “spouse’s friends”) from seeing your page or profile.
- Ask for help. Consult with an attorney, call your accountant, reach out to friends or family. Take care of yourself throughout this process.