Even if you expect your spouse to be reasonable, or you’ve already reached tentative agreements, preparing for divorce is essential and can reduce time, energy and money during the process.
Here are simple steps you may take while preparing for divorce in California.
1. Millions of people who are divorced made costly mistakes. Learn from their experiences and avoid these three common mistakes in divorce.
2. Make smart and conservative financial choices.
Despite your decision to separate or divorce, you and your spouse remain bound by fiduciary obligations to wisely manage and control community property until it’s legally divided. (California Family Code Sections 721(b), 2102)
Community property funds used to pay your post separation personal expenses may be offset against your share of the community estate. (California Family Code Section 2602) In other words, if you use community property to buy a new car or go on a lavish trip in anticipation of separating and/or getting divorced, you’ll be spending your share of the community estate. If you spend more than one-half, or some of your spouse’s share, you’ll be required to repay your spouse unless he/she waves the right to be reimbursed.
That said, to safeguard assets during separation or cover the necessities of life, a spouse can properly take possession of most community assets without a court order provided he/she doesn’t interfere with the other spouse’s personal business. (California Family Code Section 1100(d))
3. Set up a new email account and/or Dropbox account and dedicate it to your separation and divorce process
4. Speak to me or another conscious and competent lawyer. Experienced attorneys know ways to make separating and getting divorced easier. We also may review and advise on a proposed marital settlement agreement or simply act as “scrivener” (draftsperson), putting agreed-upon terms of a settlement agreement in proper legal form for the parties’ signatures.
5. Download or print documents about income, expenses, assets, and debts acquired, received or incurred before or during marriage and after the date of separation
6. Prepare written inventories of real and personal property belonging to you and/or your spouse. Inventory every item: Bose speakers, iMac, Kindle, Samsung Television or group items: kitchenware, garden tools, computers, stereo equipment. Include specific or broad acquisition dates: June 20, 1984, before the marriage, during the marriage or after the date of separation
7. Store important documents safely as they tend to disappear. Keep multiple copies of critical evidence. Even if you’re on good terms with your spouse, gather copies of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, property deeds, financial statements, wills, trusts, business records, employment records, court documents, and other relevant documents.
8. Speak to a financial advisor and/or your accountant. A clear picture of your financial condition will help you identify feasible options and make educated choices
9. Get your credit report to track and uncover debt or accounts
10. Open a checking or savings account to use after the date of separation
11. Consider opening a separate credit account. Creditors might consider child and spousal support as income to qualify. Lawyers may accept credit cards
12. Loss, uncertainty, and change are integral to divorce. Therapists and psychiatrists can help you treat depression, focus, maintain balance, face crises, process emotions, maintain momentum, take action and make good choices. Ordinarily, their hourly rates are lower than lawyers, and your conversations may be privileged.
13. Begin, continue and complete your education or occupational training. Determine whether your spouse or the community will pay school costs and/or if spousal support will continue until you become self-supporting or at least, graduate.
14. If you must find work, pursue a career you love.
15. If you’re planning on moving, find a place you love, or feel comfortable in for now. If you’re buying or renting, Zillow, Trulia, Craigslist and Apartments.com may be useful.
16. If you and your spouse hold title to real property as joint tenants or community property with right of survivorship, consider immediately severing the joint tenancy or terminating the survivorship feature. By defeating the right of survivorship, your 50% property interest can be preserved for your heirs in the event of your death before a legal separation or divorce judgment is entered. If title isn’t severed and a spouse dies before a judgment is entered, the surviving spouse will become the sole (100%) property owner.
If you’d like help preparing for separation and divorce, complete the form below and schedule a consultation.