We all have family members or friends who have been through divorce. Although
societal stigmas may still exist to some extent, divorce is far less scandalous
these days, and often viewed as something that just happens to some couples.
If you are divorcing, this is a healthy perspective for you to take and
remember as you navigate the process and move forward.
Clients often say “Divorce is an emotional rollercoaster”,
which is an incredibly accurate description. You pay a fee, stand in line,
take your seat, strap in, lose control, get tossed about, and eventually
come to the end. Here in Texas, however, we understand the difference
between riding the Judge Roy versus the Texas Giant (a patron recently
died riding the Texas Giant). While you may not avoid the ride, preparation
can help dictate whether you are strapped in the Judge Roy or the Texas
Giant. Remember, in divorce, preparation isn’t just power, it’s
If you find yourself headed for divorce, you should consider taking the
following steps to protect and prepare yourself:
- Know Your Assets & Debts – There should be nothing about your
marital finances that you do not know. It may take some catching up, but
so be it. Take steps necessary to get access to accounts, your financial
advisors, your CPA, and get educated. Copy all year-end financial statements,
work related (W2s, 1099s, 401(k), IRA, pension) and personal bank and
investment statements. Run a credit report on yourself and your spouse.
- Separate your Non-Marital Assets – The dictionary would define non-marital
assets as property considered by the courts to belong to one spouse or
another and that which is not available for equitable distribution. Basically
that just simply means they are not part of the assets divided in a divorce.
Some types of these assets include: Inherited property; Items brought
to the marriage or owned before the marriage; Gifts given specifically
to one person as opposed to the married couple; Proceeds from personal
injuries. Sometimes these non-marital assets can become mixed with marital.
An example of this would be if an item such as a boat were purchased prior
to marriage, and then sold during marriage in order to purchase another
item such as a car. In situations like this, it is very important to have
a traceable paper trail showing where the assets were and where they were
transferred into to be able to claim it as a non-marital asset.
- Walk the Line – In other words, don’t do stupid stuff. Consider
yourself to be under a microscope. No alcohol, no drugs, no questionable
behavior. Put your love life on hold and stay single. Change passwords
on all social media accounts and refrain from posting anything that would
upset your children or spouse. In fact, it may be best to just avoid social
media all together until the process is concluded.
- Focus on the Kids – If you have children, start listing parenting
issues and visitation options. Be sure to inform yourself as to the children’s
lives – who are their doctors, teachers, tutors, friends, and activities.
Hopefully you already have a solid relationship, but if not – no
better time than immediately to start spending quality time with your kids.
- Hire an Experienced Divorce Lawyer – Even by adhering to all these
principles, the divorce process can be very confusing and difficult to
manage. There is a large amount of information and guidelines that must
be considered, which are often fact specific. For this reason, it is important
to consult with and hire an experienced divorce attorney who will be able
to walk you through this process and help protect your rights. Keep in
mind that an experienced attorney can make sure you avoid mistakes that
could make the ride a lot less bumpy.
Lastly, many people say they want to make this the last good holiday for
the families. If that’s the case, respect each other, save the arguments
for another day and try to start a new tradition for yourself this year.
By doing that, next year will be easier and you will be on your way to
making the best of your life the rest of your life!