Preparing for Divorce During COVID-19
While it may be unpleasant to consider preparing for divorce during these unprecedented times, there are certain steps that you can, and should, take in advance. These steps will reduce the stress of the divorce process by empowering you and helping you to understand your financial situation.
Consult with a Lawyer
The decisions you will have to make during a divorce can have far-reaching consequences that you may not be aware of now. Thus, it is beneficial to consult with a lawyer as early as possible during the preparation stage. In selecting a lawyer, look for somebody who practices locally and who specializes in family law. Ask friends and family members for recommendations. Take a look at the firm’s website. Most importantly, schedule a consultation with a lawyer via video conference, as the COVID-19 pandemic prevents face-to-face meetings. Ensure you feel comfortable with the lawyer, as this could be the beginning of a long relationship.
Establish a Support System
The break-up of a marriage can be a traumatic experience. While your lawyer should be a good listener, she is not trained as a therapist and is often more expensive. That is why if you feel like you need emotional support, aside from legal support, you should seek out a reputable therapist and have a friend or family member on standby.
Access to Cash
Ensure you can access cash and have a credit card in your name. This does not mean that you should hide cash from your spouse, as all marital assets are subject to equitable distribution during divorce. It is, however, important to have access to “emergency” money on which to live in case your spouse stops suddenly paying bills or providing support.
When you are in the mindset, collect important documents, such as legal and court documents, financial and credit card statements, business records, pay stubs, income tax returns, W-2s or 1099s, insurance policies, bills or other documents that concern you, your spouse, or your children. Save these documents on a thumb drive for ease of reference. Regarding your marriage’s finances, prepare a list of income sources, monthly expenses, assets, and liabilities. Obtain a copy of your credit report. The “gathering” process can be overwhelming, but a good family law attorney can step in and help walk you through the process.
Start a journal and write about your marital history. What are the normal routines in your household? How much time does your spouse spend with the children during the week? Be sure to keep your journal private.
Protect Your Privacy
You should take steps to safeguard your information and communications. Create a separate email that your spouse does not have access to, as you will be sending confidential information back and forth to your lawyer and discussing case strategy. You should change your passwords if your spouse knows them. Also, ensure you are not using a source that backs up to the cloud or an external hard drive that your spouse can access. Check for spyware. Further, as basic as it may seem, always be aware of what is visible on your mobile device and computer screen and do not leave important paperwork out in the open.
Have Realistic Expectations
The Court will not be able to solve all of the problems which led to the breakdown of your marriage. You will have the best chance of being satisfied with the outcome if you begin the process with realistic expectations for your divorce.