Four Things to Do Before Filing for Divorce

Four Things to DoThere are four things you should do before filing for divorce.  You should also do these four things if you think your husband or wife may be planning to divorce you.

  1. Copy your financial information
  2. Video record your possessions
  3. Get some legal advice
  4. Stash some cash

Copy your financial records

Make a photocopy of the financial records of you and your spouse.

You want to do this, because you may lose access to the house, and then you can’t get at the documents.  Paperwork also tends to “disappear” during the divorce process.

Copy the following things for sure:

  • Tax returns and W-2’s for the last five years
  • Recent pay stubs, showing at least a full month of earnings (and deductions)
  • 401k, IRA and retirement account statements
  • Brokerage account statement
  • Mortgage payment statement
  • Car payment statements
  • All bank account statements for the last three months

You may also want to make copies of the following:

  • Titles to cars, motorcycles, boats, trailers, etc.
  • Recent credit card statements
  • Student loan account statements

By making copies of these things, you will not be looking for them during the divorce.  The paperwork will not disappear. And you will not be trying to get them from your spouse through the expensive legal discovery process.

Video record your possessions

You should make a record of the “things” you have before filing for divorce.  It is a lot easier to prove that you had something, if you can see it on a video recording.

Everyone (almost) has a smartphone nowdays.  Just take your iPhone, your Galaxy or whatever, and make a movie of your things.  Walk around the house, and narrate the video by describing what you see.

For instance, open up your wife’s jewelry case, and describe the necklaces, rings, etc.  Or go in the garage, open up the toolbox drawers, and say “Here are my husband’s tools.” Go to the shelves or cabinets and say “Here is my husband’s DeWalt saw, and here is another saw, and the air compressor. ”

Video the Trek mountain bike with the full suspension.  Open up the gun safe and video each firearm.  You get the idea.

Get some legal advice

Talk to a lawyer before you file for divorce.  Call a lawyer, tell them you are thinking of filing for divorce, and you would like to get a consultation.

If the lawyer says that they charge for such a consultation, that’s great.  You want legal advice for your specific situation.  Advice costs money.

Free consultations are sales pitches, where the lawyer talks about him or herself.  This is not about them, it is about you.  Pay someone to advise you.

Stash some cash

You are going to need money when you are filing for a divorce.  This is especially important if your husband or wife makes the most money and/or controls most of the finances. You will need money to:

  • Hire a divorce lawyer
  • Pay the rent or mortgage if you stay in the house
  • Pay the deposit and first months rent on your new place
  • Pay your bills
  • Eat
  • Live

Go ahead and take money from joint accounts.  It’s OK, it is your money too.  (Just don’t leave your spouse penniless, because you will look like a jerk).

If you do not have money in your accounts, take out a cash advance on your credit cards.  Take out personal loan.  Use a car or other vehicle as collateral.

Just get some cash money.  It will be a lot harder to get some once the divorce starts.  Your accounts may be frozen, or your spouse might clean out your accounts.

So copy your financials, video your things, get some legal advice and stash some cash.  Doing these four things will get you more prepared for your divorce.

By Steve Harton