January notoriously has the highest rate of divorce and separation. In fact, January 2nd is National Hire a Divorce Lawyer Day. Separation and divorce is a confusing and emotional time, especially if you don’t know where to turn. The following tips can help alleviate some stress and ease your transition during a separation.
1) Financial Information
Before moving, make copies of all tax returns, bank and retirement statements, auto titles, and loan documents. Make sure you keep the copies in a safe place where your spouse cannot destroy them. This includes personal cloud storage that a spouse cannot access.
2) Gather the Important Documents
: Social Security Cards, Birth Certificates, Passports, insurance cards, and other important documents tend to go “missing” once the parties separate. Make sure you keep these documents in a safe place where your spouse cannot access them, or where you will be able to quickly obtain them if you need to leave in a hurry. For example, if you have a personal desk or storage cabinet at work, you may want to consider keeping them there until your spouse moves out or you obtain a new residence.
3) Take Pictures
Household items are divisible between the parties in equitable distribution. While most items may not be worth much, they do have value. One spouse will frequently move out without having any idea what is in the house or what was left behind. Once you establish a new residence, you cannot return to your marital home without your spouse’s permission. In other words, you have to trust that they will disclose all the household items you left behind. To avoid this debate, take photos or video of the furniture and other household items before you leave. Pay special attention to antiques, valuables, and collections, as well as appliances.
4) Don’t Post About It
Your posts to social media can be used against you in court. When going through a divorce, many people post details of their case on their personal social media pages or ask for advice from strangers in Facebook groups. Others use their accounts to show off their fun, new life without their spouse and posts pictures of their lavish spending and barhopping. These posts can be introduced to the court and used against you in a variety of ways. When posting, its best to suppress the need to bash your soon-to-be ex or delete those “revenge” pictures.
5) Get Your Finances in Order
Look at your current household budget and the regular household bills. It is important to have a general understanding of what your family is currently spending each month and what you may need to maintain your lifestyle. Additionally, looking at the transactions on your bank statements can reveal transfers to accounts you were not aware existed.
6) Change Your Passwords
Change the passwords to all email, social media, iTunes, Amazon and messenger accounts. Also make sure to log out of the accounts from all locations once you change the password. Even if you believe your spouse cannot access these accounts, you may have once logged in on a shared computer and he or she may still be able to access your information. While changing the password on your Amazon account may seem silly, your spouse may be able to log in and find your new address. This is especially important if you are fleeing from a domestic violence situation.
7) Disable Your Location Settings and Check the iPads
Again, this is especially important if you’re fleeing a domestic violence situation or do not want your spouse to know your every move. When parties share an iCloud account, your phone may also be sharing its location with all devices associated with the account. Make sure to disable your location settings so your spouse cannot track your location. Your children’s iPads, phones and tablets should also be checked. I’ve had several clients later find out that their spouse was accessing their personal text messages because the phone number was linked to a child’s iPad. If you use text message as a primary means to communicate, your spouse could discover your private discussions and information that could potentially damage your case.
8) Don’t Overshare
Be mindful of who you discuss the details of your separation with. You may be unknowingly sharing with someone who is acting as an informant for your spouse. If you must share the details of your divorce, make sure it is with someone who will keep the conversation private.
9) Don’t Make Large Purchases
Although you and your spouse are separated, you are still financially tied together. If you buy a home, boat, or other asset after your date of separation, your spouse may have an interest in the asset depending on the funds used to purchase it.
10) Speak with an Attorney
A consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can be invaluable in preparing to separate from your spouse. During the consultation, the attorney can provide you specific advice for your situation and your marital estate. Even if you decide not to retain an attorney, an initial consultation can help you understand the next steps and how to best proceed.