The holidays are often difficult to get through, especially if you are considering a divorce in the new year. If you are in this position, you are not alone. There are many people that stay together through the holidays with the plan of divorce in the new year. There are also those who determined during the holiday season that the relationship was over and are now thinking about divorce in the new year. Whichever position you are in, thinking about the stress of the new year and how to go about obtaining a divorce is a lot to handle.
As you get ready to enter the new year, and start your new year fresh pursuing your divorce, here are some quick tips to try to make this process a little easier on you.
1) Know the Status of Your Accounts: There are many people that do not manage the day to day of their finances and allow their partner to handle this aspect of their lives. If you are in that position, it is time to educate yourself on the community and separate accounts that are at issue, how much is in each account, what the normal spending practices look like, and whether money has been moved from one account to another without your knowledge. This is difficult for a lot of people to face, but if you take the ostrich approach and avoid the situation, you can be left with no funds to help support yourself during this process and you could be left with a mess of untangling what exactly is community that should be divided.
2) Gather All Important Financial Documents: The Court in California will require both parties to the divorce to exchange disclosures of all community and separate assets and debts. With those disclosures you are required to provide supporting documentation. Collecting this information and documentation can be extremely time-consuming and stressful. We recommend you get ahead of this by starting to gather these documents now.
Common documents you will need: Mortgage deeds and payment statements for any real property owned; at least two years of tax returns, the last year of your personal pay history, life insurance policy information, health insurance information, car insurance information, documentation of ownership of vehicles including titles and payment statements, loan statements for any separately or jointly held loans, current statements from all bank accounts and retirement accounts.
3) Create a Budget: It is a policy in California for both parties to be able to maintain the marital standard of living even while they are separated. The problem is, this is almost impossible for most couples as they lived within their means while they were married but trying to double that into two households likely means there isn’t enough monthly income to support that life. That means creating a budget to determine what you need to maintain your monthly expenses will be crucial.
Budget considerations: rent/mortgage, groceries, dinning out, entertainment (including monthly subscriptions), phone/internet/utilities, car payments, medical and car insurance, car maintenance and gas, retirement savings, school expenses, childcare expenses.
4) Create Your Own Bank Account: Divorce can get ugly, and it is important to have control over your own income after separation as that is generally considered your separate property. You will need those funds to survive, and having all funds in a shared account gives unnecessary control to your partner to take those funds away from you. Many couples keep their joint account open and active during the divorce process to pay for joint expenses, and that is perfectly fine. It is important, however, to not rely on joint accounts so you are stuck with no funds to support yourself.
5) Update Your Personal Passwords: Similar to opening up your own bank account, many people opt to change all their personal passwords that their partner may know. These passwords would be for things like your personal email, etc. You should not change the password to jointly used things such as utility bill accounts, cell phone billing accounts, jointly help bank accounts, etc.
6) Get a New Email: It may sound excessive, but opening up a new email for sole use during your litigation is a great way to stay organized, ensure you are not sharing private and privileged information with your ex-partner, and creates a more secured avenue for discussions between yourself and your attorney should you choose to retain one.
7) Make a Record of Custodial Time: Unfortunately, custody and visitation of the children is often a highly disputed area of a divorce. Keeping track of how much time you and your ex-partner currently spend with the children (and for how long that has been occurring) can be beneficial in any future custody dispute. Even better, if you and your ex-partner are doing well at co-parenting, try talking to them about what a preferred schedule will look like and see if an agreement can be reached. Once an agreement is reached, it is important to get that agreement memorialized into a stipulation and order that is signed by the Court.
8) Consult with an Attorney: Divorce in California can be a long and difficult process, but it can be easier. One of the best ways to make the process easier on yourself is to retain an attorney to represent you. Your attorney can walk you through the divorce process, handle service and receipt of all pleadings and discovery, draft all pleadings and discovery for you, ensure you are meeting California and Court required deadlines, and provide you with support and advice to get you through the process.