Top 10 Things to do Before Filing for Divorce:
Information is power. Gather proof of income such as tax returns, W-2s, 1099, paystubs, etc. Gather any and all financial account statements (whether yours, your spouse’s or joint accounts), including bank statements, credit card statements, retirement statements, mutual funds, etc. Also, gather any documentation relevant to issues in your case such as emails, text messages, school records, etc.
Change the passwords to all email addresses, social media, bank accounts, and credit card accounts. Figure out whether your spouse is able to reset your passwords. If so your spouse likely has an email address tied to the account. If it is your own personal or individual account, remove your spouse’s email address. If it is a joint account, do not limit your spouse’s ability to access the account.
As Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ (okay, maybe not Google+) have become a fixture in our everyday lives, social media postings are commonly used as evidence in divorce cases. If your spouse accuses you of having an alcohol problem, you can be sure that the judge will see any postings showing you drinking and partying. Anger Problem? Adultery? Pick your allegation. Evidence of it can be found on social media. When it comes to social media postings, boring is better.
Word travels fast. Be careful what you say even to your closest friends. Invariably word will get back to your spouse. Do not discuss your divorce, your plans, your misdeeds or your spouse’s misdeeds with anyone other than your attorney.
For those of us who are not tech-savvy, technology can be scary. But in the hands of a knowledgeable, emotional spouse, technology can be frightening. I’ve seen GPS trackers, recording devices, cloned cell phones, and hidden cameras. As the classic song by the Police goes, if you always feel like somebody’s watching you, you might be right.
A divorce can be a long process. Memories fade. So it’s important to keep a journal of the important happenings. Write down the date, time, and event. If your spouse threatens you, write it down. If your spouse admits to an affair, write it down. Were you the only one to show up for your kid’s doctor’s appointment? Write it down.
At some point in the divorce process, you and your spouse will have separate residences. You need to know what you can afford. You will also need to know whether you are eligible for spousal maintenance and how much child support will be, so your divorce lawyer can help you figure out your budget.
This may be the second most important decision you make because it could be a crucial factor in determining who gets the kids. Judges want to maintain consistency for the kids. Keeping the kids in the house is a great way to do that. Same bedroom. Same house. Same neighborhood. Same friends. Same school. The parent who stays in the house has an advantage if there is a custody battle.
Always assume that your actions will be reviewed by the judge because they likely will. Your children should always be your number one priority. Always put their needs before your own. Except in cases of abuse or neglect, understand that it is in your children’s best interest to have a strong relationship with both parents.
Meet with as many lawyers as necessary until you find the right one for you. Meet with your lawyer face-to-face to make sure you’re comfortable with him. A good divorce lawyer has experience, is board certified, is a good listener, and can empathize with you. Avoid lawyers who use scare tactics and tough talk. You need a lawyer who understands the value of cooperation but is willing to fight for you if necessary.