DO CONSULT WITH A LAWYER.
It’s a good idea, especially if you have children or assets. Experts say when looking for an attorney, you should ask people you trust for recommendations, and don’t cut corners when it comes to good, solid legal help. If you intend to hire a lawyer, start putting aside money for your legal costs, so you can pay the upfront retainer fee often required. The lawyer’s hourly rate is billed against the retainer.
DO MAKE COPIES.
Photocopy every important, relevant document from the last three years of your marriage. This includes tax returns, mortgage payments, bank statements, pay stubs, stock certificates and bonds – to supply your lawyer or mediator. This will help create a snapshot of your finances as the process begins, incase documents begins to disappear.
DO STEER CLEAR OF DAMAGING CREDIT PROBLEMS.
Cancel joint credit cards. Experts say if your credit card accounts are in both you and your spouse’s names, and they remain open, you are still responsible for any charges made by your spouse. If charges go unpaid, they can end up on your credit report. Get credit cards and accounts in your own name to build your own credit.
DO MAKE SURE YOU’RE COVERED.
Medical insurance coverage can end in divorce. If you are on your spouse’s insurance plan, you should be able to continue coverage for up to 36 months under the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Under this plan you pay the premiums, which may be expensive, but it’s better than no coverage at all untill you are able to shop around and find reasonable coverage for yourself.
DO TAKE A HOME AND ASSET INVENTORY.
This will better clarify what exactly needs to be divided. Write down everything you know about your assets and debts, and record the persons who can be witnesses. It’s good for people to compile lists. You can’t bring your lawyer too much information. Also consider taking pictures or videos of your home and contents and making copies of family photographs you want to keep. Digital pictures are the easiest and most economical to compile and can easily be emailed to your attorney.
DO THINK ABOUT TAX CONSEQUENCES.
For instance, if a stock is valued at $3,000, it may only be worth $2,600 in cash after capital gains taxes are paid. Thus, it would not be the same as receiving $3,000 cash in a divorce settlement. Consider the costs of converting assets into fast cash for the parties in dividing assets equitably. If one party will have to pay taxes, request enough of the asset to cover the tax as well.
DO CHOOSE YOUR ASSETS CAREFULLY.
when staking a claim in assets, remember that choosing the wrong assets may end up costing you money, instead of making you money. If you want to keep the house, for instance, first educate yourself about the fair market value of your home. You can also look up the county appraisal amount listed for your home. This should not be considered your fair market amount if considering a sell, but it will atleast give you an idea of it’s value. As an example, in Harris county texas, you can look up your property at www.hcad.org by address or name. Remember that you’ll have to make the mortgage payments and pay taxes, interest, insurance, utilities and maintenance extras. Selling it won’t be a picnic, either: The brokerage costs and taxes from the sale will be solely your responsibility.
DO LINE UP YOUR OWN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT.
Choose friends or family members you can trust, because you never know who may end up turning on you or even testifying against you later. Consulting with a counselor can keep you thinking clearly in order to focus on your divorce plan. If you anticipate a child custody fight, you may want to take your child to a therapist before it starts. Randy Rolfe, author of “The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents,” states that when you have counseling, you’ll be less likely to give up and give over things in the divorce.
Experts also recommend that you remain practical — legally and emotionally — when planning your divorce.
There some things you should never do:
- Don’t skimp on legal help.
- Don’t just move out of your home, unless you fear physical harm. Talk to your lawyer to discuss your options before you make your move.
- Don’t try to do it all. Some cases do need experts like accountants, appraisers, etc. Thinking you can do these things on your own can be counterproductive.
- Don’t share a lawyer with your spouse. This scenario presents a huge conflict of interest. Most lawyers won’t do it, and it could borderline on malpractice.
- Don’t make revenge the goal of the divorce.
- Don’t compare your divorce to another divorce. Each case has its own set of facts, with its own personality.
- Don’t bad-mouth your spouse to your children. It can backfire on you in ways you don’t expect.
- Don’t just think about your actions, but also consider the impact they can have in a case. For example, don’t write a letter you would mind being read in a courtroom.
A divorce will affect you legally, financially and emotionally. Although deciding to divorce isn’t easy, taking the time to incorporate these do’s and don’ts can make the process — and its financial and emotional consequences — as uncomplicated as possible.