Four Steps to Prepare for Divorce In New York
Four Steps to Prepare for Divorce
Making the decision to pull the plug on a relationship is a big decision. Many people remain in merely-tolerable relationships all their lives to avoid making such a decision. So it’s understandable that it might take someone a bit of time to make the decision. But what can you do when you sense that the relationship you’re in is not your forever-after relationship and will likely have a limited shelf life?
In this article, we outline four steps you should take so that you remain safe and to make a divorce, should it happen, as smooth and painless as possible:
1. Take steps to ensure that you and your children will remain safe.
When dealing with an a violently-angry spouse, announcing a divorce or separation, or serving a spouse with a restraining order, is the most dangerous time. Too often, the amount and intensity of domestic violence increases when a spouse threatens to leave or serves a restraining order. So take steps to line up a support system, and a safe refuge, so that when the time comes to leave, you and your children will be safe.
2. Become informed of the family’s finances.
Although while together there might be an allocation of responsibilities between you and your spouse, it is now time for you to keep your eyes open and remain curious and interested in the family’s finances. Inform yourself of them. You will be empowered if you learn about the money you both have and where it is kept, what the family’s finances are like, what the income and expenses are (where the money comes from and where it goes out to), and what assets and liabilities you both have. Make copies of important documents like deeds to properties, at least one bank statement from each bank account, and insurance policies listing the valuable insured assets, and store them offsite in a safe location.
Remember that your spouse likely has your computer and email passwords and, therefore, access to them.
3. Create–and beware of–a paper trail.
Remember that in today’s digital age, everything is permanently recorded. Be clever and use that to your advantage and ensure that it won’t be used against you. The new adage has become“Text and email as if you will have to read it in the Courtroom in front of all the lawyers and with the judge peering down at you.” So moderate any incivility or criticism in your written texts, emails or posts, and be more factual than argumentative.
Remember that a judge who reads your emails months or years later won’t realize the justification for your anger or cutting remarks. So it’s always better to remain factual and forthright, than critical and argumentative.
On the other hand there might be issues that would be better if they were documented. So if you are the primary parent caring for the children, you might want to create a paper trail of that. If your spouse is asking you to give up your job and relinquish your career, it will be helpful later if you can prove that you did so at their request. What might be relevant depends on the issues confronting you at the time of your divorce, and what is “legally relevant” in your jurisdiction. Which brings us to the final point.
4. Engage a superior lawyer.
Lawyers are not fungible. Because it is a personal service, no two lawyers are alike. You will want a lawyer who is supportive and knowledgeable, and who will empower you by quickly and easily giving you the information you need, without overloading or overwhelming you. One who gives you the knowledge and freedom to make the decisions that are right for you without pressuring or rushing you into pulling the trigger. One who will be fierce and protective of you without being overly confrontational or aggressive with your spouse, provoking a battle that will be more bitter, nasty, or prolonged than it needs to be.
For the full list of the qualities you should look for when selecting a lawyer, see: