If someone is contemplating divorce, are there steps that can be taken to make the process simpler and to be better prepared?
Divorce can be complex, especially when you have not handled the household finances. It is even possible that you may not know the names of banks, whether you have a savings account, or whether you have invested in stocks and bonds. If you’re contemplating divorce, you should begin by educating yourself on the marital finances and start creating lists. Doing this work early on will save you time and expense with an attorney later. When it comes to compiling lists, more is better.
Get to Know Assets and Liabilities
- Compile all bank and credit card statements as they arrive. Create a list that includes the bank name and address, account number, periodic balances, and the general purpose of the account.
- Learn about your assets, such as the value and debt on your home, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, and life insurance policies.
- Copy plan booklets, statements and identification cards.
- It also does not hurt to keep track of your spouse’s income, including overtime and bonus pay.
- Take pictures and create a list of personal property, and estimate each item’s fair market value. If you are not comfortable doing this, you can employ an appraiser to do so.
- Expenses matter in divorce, so monitor expenses monthly and create a list of overall liabilities. Watch bank and credit card accounts closely. Be aware of where your money goes.
Inherited Property or Personal Gifts
If you inherited property or received a personal gift, or acquired different property with such funds, keep those assets or proceeds separate from any marital assets. For example, don’t deposit inherited or gifted money in any joint accounts. Don’t use the inherited or gifted money for a marital purpose. Always ensure that your inherited and gifted property can be traced in documented form. While these are only a few tips for keeping an inheritance out of the marital estate, keep in mind that how inherited or gifted money is received, held and used will determine its fate. Upon divorce, if you handled inherited or gifted money correctly, and provided the Court determines that exclusion of the funds from the marital estate does not create an undue financial hardship on your spouse, the inheritance or gifted money should remain your separate property.
Social Media – Beware!
Finally, remember that use of social media can come back to haunt you later in a divorce. You should always expect that anything you share on Facebook and Twitter, or other social media accounts, will be seen by the judge. So, when it comes to divorce and social media, this is one time that less is more.
Elizabeth Kremer Flanigan – Divorce Attorney
Elizabeth Kremer Flanigan is an award winning divorce attorney and family law attorney at Hanaway Ross Law Firm in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Read more about Elizabeth Kremer Flanigan or call 920-432-3381 to set up a consultation.