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Do’s and Don’ts When Divorce is Looming

On Behalf of | Jan 13, 2023 | divorce |

For many of us, this is the time of New Year’s resolutions.  And for some of us, whether of our own choosing or the insistence of our spouse, or by mutual agreement, that may also lead us to divorce.  For those of us who may see divorce on the horizon, here are a few tips to hedge your losses and simplify the process.

DO educate yourself about divorce.  Get a consultation with a reputable attorney.  Know however that with consultations, you get what you pay for.  Attorney’s offering a ‘free’ consultation in divorce matters are either hungry for work (suggesting they’re not the best choice) or not offering you much in the way of service during their consultation.  At Latrobe Law Associates, LLC, we charge a flat rate $200 for a consultation up to 90 minutes.  During our session, we take information to understand your situation and walk you through the likely process for your case.  This helps you to handle the situations that pop up and not be unduly frightened by idle threats.  You can also better start to plan for a potential looming divorce.  Moreover, if divorce isn’t your desire, understanding the process and your situation may help you to remain calm and collected during this stressful time and that may help you to focus on reconciliation.  Education is invaluable and a thorough consultation is worth the fee.

DO investigate and gather records.  Get a scanner app on your smartphone and take .pdf photos of important documents.  Estate planning documents, statements for mortgages, credit cards, banking and other financial accounts, vehicle titles and registrations, year-to-date pay stubs, and other documents are all invaluable to understanding your financial situation.  You may also want to run your own credit report.  You can find it here for free: www.annualcreditreport.com.

DO document what you have and protect sentimental items.  Take a video of your home and narrate as you go.  This is better than photos because you are less likely to miss items and you can explain what you are looking at as you go.  With a good quality video, you can also take screen shots from the video.  Also items of value such as coins, metals, jewels, and cash, can disappear and with no documentation that they existed, you will likely never recover them.  It’s unfortunate, but without documentation the law is not well equipped to correct someone willing to lie to get more than their fair share of the marital estate.

DO examine the future.  Be sure to assess and document the value of pensions and retirement assets, get copies of life insurance declarations pages, and run your social security statement for your earnings history and potential pay out.  If your spouse makes more than you, it may also benefit you to delay divorce to ensure that you are married for a sufficient length of time to ensure that you can obtain benefits under their income.  At the time of this article that time period is ten (10) years of marriage.  Also, understand your health insurance benefits and if you are now on your spouse’s benefits, begin planning for how you will obtain health insurance following divorce.

DON’T enlarge the marital estate at this time.  If you have premarital money or real estate in your own name, or if you receive an inheritance keep it in your own name.  You may face pressure to add your spouse, but in Pennsylvania, doing that will entitle your spouse to half of that asset, even if some or all of that value may have been excluded from the marital estate before your conveyance into joint names.  The same thing goes for gifts and inheritances. Do not place them into joint names as doing so will essentially gift half of that asset to your next ex-spouse.

DON’T lash out.  Divorce can be stressful, but yelling, insulting, or breaking things reflects poorly on you and may become public.  Moreover, repeated communications at late hours, even if nonthreatening, may give rise to criminal charges and threats or property damage may give rise to Protection from Abuse Order which could evict you from your home and stigmatize you in ways that you would prefer to avoid.

DON’T make a temporary situation permanent.  Acting out can make your situation worse and bad actions like overspending out of spite, quitting your job, or self-harm can make what seems bad into an awful and permanent hindrance on your happiness.  Even unbecoming late-night social media posts can impair your reputation.  Remember, it takes a lifetime to build a name and a second to wreck yourself.  If you feel yourself fraying, see a mental health professional right away.  Divorce is a stressful time, so take care of you.  Then you can take care of business.