The divorce process is a double-edged sword demanding clear thinking and excessive planning while simultaneously battling severe levels of stress and a flurry of emotions. But while divorce is rarely simple, it can be eased into.
The Phoenix divorce attorneys of Gillespie Shields Durrant & Goldfarb outline five essential tips for those just embarking on the divorce process in Arizona. However, most of these tips apply to any soon-to-be divorcés regardless of residence.
- Prepare an Inventory of Your Personal Property
The simplest and most discreet way to record your personal property and valuables is to go room through room in your house (and any other properties you may own). Create a list for “community”, “separate” and “irreplaceable” valuables; note where the items are placed, their condition (for more important pieces) and take a picture on your phone or camera. Consider taking any items you deem irreplaceable- family heirlooms, photos, etc.- with you or move them to a safe spot. Even in the most seemingly civil divorces, people are known to do irrational things- this is the best way to be one step ahead and protect your assets.
- Prepare for Child Custody (If Necessary)
Divorce with dependants of any age adds new layers of planning and of course, emotions. Who will the kids live with? Is one or both parents fighting for full custody? Who’s responsible for their finances and who will get child support? These are only some of the questions that your child custody lawyer will need to address.
This will be one of the most serious and time consuming aspects of the divorce. While still in the pre-custody stages, however, start writing down your kid’s weekly and monthly schedules and which parent is responsible for these activities. This will help demonstrate which parent is more involved and will help create a detailed parenting plan later on- a necessary part of child custody.
- Prepare Your Financial Picture
You’ll need to paint a clear financial picture for your family during the divorce proceedings. Find copies of bank statements, tax returns, 401ks, etc and make sure you have your own copy. If you are unsure of whether to copy it or not- do it; it’s far better to be over prepared than underprepared in family courts.
Some general financial statements to copy include:
- Pay stubs or proof of income (for both parties)
- Tax returns for at least the previous three years
- Owned property/ mortgages/ land contracts
- Credit card accounts and unpaid balances
- Insurance policies with beneficiaries listed
- Pension and retirement plans
- Bank statements for at least 12 months
- Business operations records
- Car titles or loans
This list is not comprehensive but should help give you an idea. In short, anything money or asset related, be prepared to discuss in court. Start to pay attention to your monthly expenses as well as shared and/or community debt. The most prepared people will begin budgeting as they will on their soon-to-be single income.
- Open Separate and New Credit Cards/Bank Accounts
If you don’t already have an individual bank account and/or credit card, open one in your name. Start depositing your half of the community cash and your own paychecks directly into this account moving forward; this is completely legal under Arizona’s marital property laws.
Start to use the credit card to help maintain your personal current score (or begin improving it). However, don’t continue with your current spending habits. Remember copying all your finances and making a single-life budget? Follow that plan and make the necessary adjustments while you still have some comfort room.
- Protect Your Privacy
Change the passwords of all your financial, social media and email accounts- one that would be unpredictable to your spouse. You should also create a completely new email dedicated to communicating with your divorce attorney; for many attorneys this is a popular form of daily, privileged communication with clients. If you ever feel your spouse hacks into these new accounts, immediately document any evidence, change the password and contact your attorney citing a possible privacy breach.
In addition to changing social media passwords, be extremely cautious of everything you post, even if your profile is private. Some attorneys may even advise you to stay off or delete them until your divorce is finalized. And while it may sound extreme, it’s sound advice- one third of divorce hearings bring up Facebook profiles at least once.
These five tips should help guide you through the initial steps of the dreaded divorce process and hopefully help reduce its financial impact. Pair these tips with finding the right divorce attorney for your needs and you’ll stand out in family court.