Proper preparation for a divorce proceeding is both a protection and a great advantage to your case. I suggest you get these three things as soon as you see your relationship heading down the path to divorce – support, evidence, and control of your finances.
1. Get Support
My advice is to create a team of people to help you through the divorce. This team includes players to support your legal, emotional, psychological and practical needs. For legal support, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you contact him the sooner he can put the actions in order to protect your assets, custody, and legal rights. For emotional support, it is important that you reach out to your family and friends for help. They can provide you with emotional support, advice, and a sounding board during your problems. They can also provide you with some practical support. If you need to get out of your house, or you are forced out by court order, they can provide you with a temporary residence as you work through the divorce proceedings. Finally, for psychological support, consider contacting a therapist or trained professional to help you with the transition from married to single life.
2. Get and Protect Evidence
As you put your support network in place, you need to start collecting and protecting evidence. The more evidence you have to present to the court the better your lawyer will be able to make the case. Start with financial documents which include paychecks, tax returns, bank statements, retirement statements, insurance policies, and investment account statements. Make copies of the paper documents, download the electronic documents, and get them out of your house. Store them with a trusted friend so that you do not run the risk of your spouse removing or destroying the documents. Do this for all your assets and liabilities as well such as wills, deeds, trusts, and any financial or mortgage documents. If you have a packet of this information organized for your lawyer, it will not only provide him with clear evidence for the court, but it will save you money because he will not need to spend the time to track down these documents.
Start putting together a history of your marriage. Write down important events such as when you bought your home, who paid for the mortgage, how were home tasks divided, who has taken care of the children, or did you fund the family while your spouse pursued a professional degree. If you marriage has any incidents of abuse, neglect, or adultery, try to document those events with police reports, medical records, or people who you could call as witnesses. If you have a family computer, consider getting a copy of the hard drive made at your local electronics shop. Make sure you change all the passwords to your personal email, Facebook, and other online accounts to preserve your records and prevent tampering by a nosy spouse.
3. Get Control of Your Finances
An angry spouse can drain you bank account, max out your credit cards, and sell off you car in the matter of a few hours. It is important that you start to take control of your financial assets. This can be tricky because in most states your spouse has claim to 1/2 of the jointly held assets like bank accounts and if you cut your spouse off completely, it will likely be used against you in court. However, you can take some steps to protect your finances.
Start first by minimizing your joint liabilities by canceling gym memberships, cable, internet, cell phone and other jointly acquired liabilities. You can always restart the service in your own name. Do not clear out your jointly held bank accounts, instead draft a letter informing your spouse that you are removing 50% of the available balance into a personal bank account, then make the transfer. If you are worried that your spouse will max out your credit cards, cancel those accounts, or request to have the credit limit lowered. If you have any personal property that you acquired before the marriage such as an antique car, watch, or family heirloom, this is the time to document it and protect it. Document how you acquired the property, then transfer it to a safe deposit box, or to a safe location away from the house. Remember with any of these actions the purpose is to protect your assets. If your purpose is to hide your money or punish your spouse, it will always come back to bite you in the court.