Plan Ahead to Protect Your Interests in a Divorce
Sometimes divorce comes as a complete shock to one spouse who had no idea the other spouse was even considering it. It can be difficult to prepare for the inevitable in this case. However, it’s more common to have an idea for months, if not years, that a divorce is imminent. Whether you are the one to file or your spouse serves you with papers, you can do several things to protect your interests in the months ahead.
Start by Gathering Documents
The division of property in a divorce can be challenging in the best of circumstances. You stand a better chance of coming out ahead by gathering documents for your divorce lawyer as early in the process as possible. At The Law Offices of Ginger Poynter, LLC, we typically recommend that our clients locate the following:
- Original title to any property you own, both joint and individually
- Tax returns for at least the last two years
- Origination documents for all loans
- Credit card statements for joint and individual accounts
- Account statements for checking, savings, retirement, and investment accounts
In addition, make a list of any property that you own separately from your spouse that you do not want to divide with him or her. This could include real estate interests you held in your own name prior to the marriage or an inheritance given to you alone.
Get the Big Picture About Your Finances
Unfortunately, it’s common for people going through a divorce to learn that their spouse had bigger spending habits than they ever realized. It’s in your own best interests to obtain your free credit report as soon as possible. Another good idea is to sign up for credit monitoring so you know immediately if your spouse makes any large purchases using a joint credit card.
Closing financial accounts early in the divorce process isn’t always easy to do. For joint checking or savings accounts, you may want to consider having the bank put a freeze on the account. This means that no money can come out of it without permission from both of you. Once you’re certain everything has cleared the accounts, you both need to request to have them closed and then re-open accounts in your own names. Legally, you can’t deny your spouse access to any joint financial accounts.
For joint credit cards, you should write a letter requesting account closure to each creditor and send it by certified mail. This will prevent you from being held liable for any charges incurred after the date of the letter. Keep in mind that creditors may not agree to close an account until it’s paid in full. Your divorce attorney will help you determine later if one or both of you must pay on the account and how much.
Establishing a separate savings account to pay for the divorce proceedings is also a good idea. You need to consider that you will need enough money to establish a separate home as well. Although alimony is not as common as it once was, certain situations do call for it. However, it may be only temporary if awarded at all.
Child Support and Custody Matters
If you have children, you can expect your divorce to be much more complicated than couples without children. Obviously, the first thing you and your spouse need to decide is who will have primary custody of the children or whether joint custody would be the best option for everyone involved.
You should know that Alabama judges favor joint physical and legal custody unless it’s clearly not in the best interests of the children. If you don’t think that it is, you should be prepared to prove the reasons why. These could include a history of domestic violence or child abuse and each parent’s relationship with the children prior to the divorce, among many other factors.
Alabama typically uses a specific formula for determining child support. Whether you want to receive child support or think you will have to pay it, researching the expected amount ahead of time is essential. Family court judges can deviate from state guidelines at their discretion.
We understand this is an extraordinarily stressful time for your family. If you’re considering filing for divorce or have just received divorce documents from your spouse, please contact the experienced and compassionate Divorce Attorney at the Law Office of Ginger Poynter to request a confidential consultation. We can be reached at (251) 445-8313 or by using our online contact form.