Are you thinking of filing for divorce? If so, there are few important things you should know before you file. Many times couples will start the divorce process on amicable terms, but more often than not, it does not end that way. Remember, divorce is not just a business deal gone bad, there are real emotions involved and a lot of life has happened between the two of you. Based on my experience, my top 10 tips of things to know before you file are:
- Keep Track of Your Spouse’s Money – Has your spouse recently applied for a loan or made a large asset purchase? Keep copies of recent financial documents as well as past financial documents.
- Take Pictures of Key Assets – When the emotions begin to spin out of control, many soon-to-be exes begin to do things out of spite like selling large assets without your knowledge, moving money around to various bank accounts. If this does happen, pictures and copies of documents will aid your case in court. When divorce proceedings start, the necessary documents can “mysteriously disappear.” Making copies ahead of time will help protect you and aid your case.
- Do not Hide Assets – Trying to deceive your spouse by hiding or concealing assets is against the law. If discovered, you will lose credibility in court along with any penalties like monetary sanctions that the judge decides appropriate. It is best to be forthcoming and declare all assets up front.
- Get Property Valued – Unfortunately, many spouses do not follow the advice of item #3, so it is necessary for you to protect yourself and get property valued. Almost all property is fair game and divisible when it comes to divorce, with a few exceptions (see my previous blog regarding division of marital property for more details about this subject), especially if you have been married for a long period of time. It is best to have items valued by an expert such as a real estate appraiser for all real property. Other items that need appraised by professionals are jewelry, art, collections, anything valuable that can’t be easily valued by the average consumer.
- Know Your Assets – Don’t mistakenly assume that your largest asset is your home. Do not overlook your spouse’s retirement account. The court could consider its future value when dividing assets.
- Know Your Debt – Do not agree to divide debt you did not accumulate. Generally speaking, unless you are a signatory on a loan document, or a joint applicant for credit, then you should not have to worry about them. As with all law, there are exceptions, debt should be handled by a separate property settlement agreement, and one spouse may be ordered to be responsible for another spouse’s debt, if there is legal justification.
- Know Which Monies Received are Taxable - If it is considered alimony, the person paying can be written off as a tax deduction, but the person receiving alimony must claim it as taxable income. If money is simply transferred in a divorce settlement, it is not considered taxable income. In this case, however, the person paying the money does not receive a tax break.
- Make Yourself Employable - It is not uncommon that one spouse has chosen to forgo his or her career in a marriage. It is advisable to update your resume and education now. It is not in your best interest to depend on an anticipated spousal support award.
- Know What You Want – Consider what assets and terms you want. I have seen it happen repeatedly; many couples are wrapped up in the fight and never really consider what they actually want. Fight only for the things that are important to you and use the rest as a bargaining tool for compromise.
- Choose the Right Lawyer for You – Find an attorney that you feel comfortable with and is a good fit for you and your case.
Every couple’s situation is different and should be reviewed by a competent attorney to get specific and reliable legal advice. Let Kevin Hickey Law Partners give you advice and knowledge specific to your needs. Knowledge is power.