Here are some things to consider if you anticipate a divorce in the near future:
- Avoid large financial commitments. This is not a good time for major purchases or new financial commitments. Limit new debt, keep your credit card balances low, and generally stay as liquid as possible. If you are a homemaker without separate credit, apply for a credit card in your name, using your spouse’s income in the application.
- Don’t quit your job! Sometimes people think they gain tactical advantage by quitting their job. If your judge suspects financial gamesmanship it will backfire. Maintain the status quo with your employment unless there is good reason to change jobs.
- Get a checkup. Now is a good time to determine if you have any potential health problems. Also if you rely on your spouse’s health insurance, you can be treated while covered under your spouse’s plan.
- Keep your eyes open. Use the time to informally investigate financial matters if you have not been involved with the family finances. If you can get copies of tax returns or other important documents, it will help us get started. Don’t panic if you can’t get any information; we will be able to get all necessary records during the discovery process of the case.
- Keep a journal. Write down important conversations or information as a reference for future use. This is particularly important if you anticipate parenting issues. Keep the journal in a safe place to avoid access by your spouse.
- Run a credit report on yourself. Check your credit to make sure there are no surprise debts that you are unaware of.
- Don’t record conversations. It is illegal to record conversations between you and your spouse. Don’t do it!
- Stop using social media. Don’t post anything to Facebook or Instagram that can be used against you later. Ideally, you should deactivate your accounts. It is illegal to delete information with a impending divorce, but a deactivation is permissible.
- Play to your audience. There really is one person you will need to impress: the judge. Gauge all behavior through the lens of, “how will the judge react to me doing this?” If you think the judge will be offended or irritated, don’t do it. Sometimes it’s hard to be objective with ourselves and that’s why it’s important to hire a lawyer who knows the judge and has good common sense.
- Control your emotions. Many text messages, e-mails and Facebook posts are generated when you are angry. They will be used against you. Be cautious: the judge may read your angry text or incriminating social media post. Only write or say something that you are unconcerned about the judge considering or you wouldn’t mind seeing on the front page of the newspaper.
- Turn down the volume. Everybody is scared and vulnerable shortly before a divorce starts. This results in people making threats or acting out. Don’t do it, and don’t respond. If your spouse gets out of control, call the police or file for an order of protection (which you can obtain without filing a divorce). To the extent possible, try to maintain normalcy during this difficult period, particularly if you have children.
- Don’t hit the panic button. Don’t start disposing of money or hiding accounts. Your spouse’s lawyer will likely find it anyway. This conduct will boomerang and cause the judge to mistrust you. If you are concerned about your spouse removing money, you may need to contact us immediately so we can seek the appropriate court orders to protect you.
- Watch your back. Don’t be paranoid but people sometimes monitor their spouse’s comings and goings via GPS, or monitor their spouse’s computer activities using spyware. Change all of your passwords and exclude your spouse from any of your cell phone accounts. If you are still concerned, proceed cautiously and call us. We can take action to stop this conduct after the case is filed.
- Take care of yourself. Divorce is stressful and will take a toll on even the healthiest. In order to maintain your strength and emotional equilibrium during this difficult time, watch your diet, get enough sleep, exercise, and avoid using alcohol to excess. Keep perspective and if necessary, contact a clergyman or a therapist for counseling.
And remember, this too shall pass. While you are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain, your life will get better. Things always look darkest right before the dawn. People not only survive divorce every day, they often thrive in their new life. And you can too!