For most people, a divorce is a once in a lifetime experience.
Even if you’ve gone through a divorce a couple of times, you’re not likely to know a lot about the process as it’s not something you deal with every day.
You might be familiar with the process, but when it’s your own divorce, emotions are likely sky-high which can affect your decision-making abilities.
So, even when you retain an attorney, it’s good to have a Do/Don’t Do list on hand to be sure you cover all the important points.
THE DO’s AND DON’T DO’s:
- If your spouse is cooperating, your best option is to pursue mediation. A divorce trial is likely to eat up a lot of the marital assets. If that happens, both you and your spouse lose.
If there are children involved, you want to preserve as much of the marital assets as possible even if it means giving your spouse some things you really wanted.
What’s more important? A few thousand dollars more in your pocket, or your children happy and well-adjusted despite the divorce?
- Even if you plan to a divorce mediation, go into all your shared financial accounts and print out all financial statements:
- joint bank accounts
- your spouse’s separate account statements if you have access
- credit card bills
- mortgage statements
- retirement accounts statements (both yours and your spouse’s if you have access to it)
- tax returns for the duration of the marriage
- any other account of any sort.
Doing the above will protect you if your spouse changes the passwords to prevent you from accessing the accounts.
You’ll at least have a hard copy of your latest statements until your spouse’s lawyer can convince him or her to give you back access, or until the court orders your spouse to give you back access because that’s the law.
In Nevada, a community property state, most assets owned by either party fall into community property so, for instance, it doesn’t matter whose name a car, bank account, or deed to a house is in. Apart for some exceptions, all assets owned by either party belongs to both of them.
Best check with your lawyer to understand which ones are, and aren’t in your case, because this is a whole other subject.
- Don’t do what you hope your spouse won’t do to you; try to manipulate your finances. It will for sure come back to bite you in the you-know-what and that won’t feel good, trust me. It’s rare for such shenanigans to escape the notice of the court. In other words, you’re likely to get caught and sanctioned by the court for playing games with the community property assets.
It will be difficult for your judge to trust you if proof is shown that you tried to manipulate the finances just before, or just after, filing a divorce. Judges are human too, and maybe even without realizing it, the judge could end up being tougher on you for doing this.
- If you have a lot of financial assets, and, or, more than one house, consider hiring a financial adviser to work with your divorce lawyer.
Though your divorce attorney will know about how finances must be divided during a divorce, he or she might not understand the best way to proceed to preserve most of the assets for you, your spouse, and for your children. Try to remember that it will affect your children if your spouse falls into financial trouble.
If you have the marital home and a few thousand dollars in one or more accounts, you’re okay to just see the divorce attorney who will do your mediation (if mediation works for you).
- Choose a divorce lawyer open to mediation. Ideally, you want mediation. This will save you a lot of money and time. If you choose an aggressive divorce attorney who has never steered clients toward mediation, but loves the court room, you’re not likely to change his or her mind for you.
Choose an attorney certified in mediation, arbitration, and alternative dispute resolution by their State Bar. Such an attorney tends to guide clients into mediation first and only goes to court if nothing can be reasonably resolved that way.
Mediation is your best option to preserve as much of your assets as possible. Remember that it’s not only your spouse who loses big if you go to court. You’ll be paying your own lawyer $300-$700 per hour if there’s a divorce trial. An average divorce trial costs $15,000 for EACH party to the divorce. Yeah . . .
- If you have minor children, DO NOT DISCUSS THE DIVORCE WITH THEM.
Sorry for shouting, but really. Leave them out of it. Tell them it’s going on, obviously, but they need not know that the two people they love most in the whole world now hate one another if that’s the case.
- They don’t need to hear nasty fights over money, or over who gets what of the household goods.
- The best you can do to help your children transition as smoothly as possible to the new situation is to:
- Tell them you’re getting a divorce
- make it clear that you both still love them, that this divorce has nothing at all to do with them, but is an issue between you and their other parent.
- say you’re doing all you can to minimize the impact on them. And then do that.
- make sure they understand you are not abandoning them.
- describe how their lifestyle will change. How they’ll now have two homes—if you opt for shared physical custody. Shared physical custody is preferable to Family Court in Nevada—unless there’s a strong reason to give physical custody to one parent and visitation only to the other.
- explain that they will still have access to you even when they’re at their other parent’s house.
Bottom line, do what you need to do so they still feel secure in their world.
Consider seeing a psychologist for a few family sessions (if your spouse is open to that—if not, go with your children anyway) to make the transition as smooth as possible for them.
- Lessen your expenses. Most people just coming out of a divorce can’t afford the same lifestyle they had during the marriage. Go through your budget with a fine-tooth comb and slash, slash, slash, any discretionary items until you can figure out how to increase your income, if you wish to live your same pre-divorce lifestyle.
Several of our divorce clients end up reaching out a year or so after their divorce wishing to file bankruptcy. To be sure this isn’t you, cut up most credit cards immediately, except one or two for emergencies.
Every divorce is different, but the above do’s and don’ts should serve you well. As always, I’m available if you need a divorce attorney certified in mediation, one accredited by the court as a court arbitrator.