Understand your Finances
This may seem pretty basic, but I speak with people who are pursuing a divorce and have almost no information about their shared financial situation. There are a lot of situations where financial information is not known or shared between spouses. A few key items to understand, or at least have general numbers around include:
- What is the value of your home and how much do you owe on any outstanding mortgages?
- What is your total annual household income? What is your current monthly budget for household expenses?
- Are there retirement accounts like a 401(k) or an IRA? What financial institution are they with?
Having some basic knowledge about your financial situation gives your attorney the information they need to formulate the best plan for the divorce process and give you sound advice.
Think about if you really want a “tough” attorney
Divorce is typically a very emotional experience that is driven by difficult feelings towards your spouse. This leads a lot of people to find an aggressive or “tough” attorney, believing it’s the best way to deal with a difficult spouse. Your spouse may be your enemy, but our goal is to get you through the divorce process as cost-effectively and smoothly as possible. This means knowing what to fight for and knowing when it’s time to compromise. While many clients do not initially favor this approach, it has proven to yield the best results over and over again.
Do not take legal advice from friends
When your friends and family become aware of your divorce you will very likely be hit with an endless stream of information and advice. While the support of your friends and family is important, they are not lawyers, and some of the things that people will tell you “about their divorce” are just inaccurate and misleading. Do not let someone else’s stories about a completely different situation drive your decision making. Your attorney who is familiar with your unique situation is the only person who is qualified to give you legal advice.
Do not discuss divorce on social media
This should be fairly obvious, but you should never discuss any element of your divorce on social media. There have been several occasions where screenshots of social media comments end up being evidence in court, which is never a good situation. Keeping the details (and even plans) of your divorce private is in your best interest. It’s also a good idea to restrict your access to social media so that your spouse or their relatives are not able to cause any type of trouble for you.
Understand the tax implications of your decisions
Regardless of how you feel about your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you do have an enemy in common in the IRS and other tax-collecting entities. There are several tax implications in the timing of the divorce, how support will be paid and how any assets will be sold. Work with your attorney (and your spouse) to ensure that what you are doing protects your assets from State and Federal taxes.
Everything in writing
You will likely have multiple discussions with your spouse and hopefully will be able to work towards some solutions. Whether you are discussing strategies for co-parenting, finances or asset division, having everything in writing is to your benefit. It keeps a clear record of the things that have been settled, and helps to hold both parties accountable.
Preparing for divorce can be an overwhelming process. However, the more time and energy you invest into proper planning and preparation, the better the outcome of the process. Brandon Bernstein helps people in Maryland work through divorce and other family law issues. Contact us today for a free phone consultation.