Pre-Divorce Planning Checklist (Before Speaking To An Attorney)
When clients come in to consult me for the first time, it is unusual (although not unheard of!) that both parties don’t already know that divorce is in the works. Sometimes they’ve been pondering whether divorce is the answer for some time. If so, it is likely that they’ve performed their homework on-line and already know some of this advice. But sometimes, I am the first step in their pre-divorce planning process. If that is true for you, then this is when you really need the advice that follows.
- Be certain. Be sure that divorce is what you really want and emotionally prepare yourself for the decision to sever those ties.
- Consider counseling. Do you think that your marriage is salvageable? Is your spouse willing to try?
- Make sure that you and your children are safe. If your spouse has ever been violent towards you or your kids, plan an escape route and a safe place to stay and, most importantly, petition the court for an injunction for protection against domestic violence as soon as you can.
- Open a new, individual bank account, arrange for a safe deposit box, and obtain a post office box, all in your own name, individually.
- Take half of the funds out of your joint accounts. In Florida, divorcing spouses share funds earned during the marriage equally, regardless of who earned them or in whose name they are listed. But don’t take all the money; the courts frown on spouses who do that.
- Open credit cards in your own name and sever credit ties with your spouse, if you can. Pay off joint accounts with joint funds and close them, if you can afford it. If you’re joint users, then freezing the account may be your best bet.
- Change your passwords, if necessary, and keep records of your new ones in a safe and secure place.
- Make any changes necessary to your designations of life insurance beneficiaries, powers of attorney, and “payable-on-death” instructions. (Check this last one with your banking institution.)
- Copy important documents, like retirement account statements (especially from when you first opened the account), deeds, mortgages, insurance policies, and the last six months of bank statements, credit card statements, pay records, etc. (Your attorney can give you the list of items to consider in this category.) Place physical copies of these in your new safe deposit box.
- List and take photos of all of your personal property, especially if you plan to leave your marital home. Video record all the contents of your home, if you can, both yours and your spouse’s, in case someone alleges later that certain items did not exist.
- Close your social media accounts. All of them.
- Put aside some savings. Divorce proceedings can take a long time and cost a lot. This is a perfect time to save for emergencies. Talk to your parents or close friends about financial support during the divorce proceedings; who can you count on to help you?
- Arrange for payment of attorney’s fees and court costs. Ask friends, if you do not have the funds, or apply for a loan.
- Consider court-less divorce options like collaboration and mediation. (They take less time, and are far less expensive, less stressful, and less detrimental to everyone’s mental health.
- Do your homework before choosing an attorney! Consult an attorney who can explain all of the courtless options to you before you file a petition in court and start a war.
If you decide you are ready to proceed with a divorce, Open Palm Law is ready to help you with the divorce process that you decide is best for your family. You have control over how decide to divorce. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
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Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed in the United States Supreme Court upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.