There are so many things to think about if you’ve decided to get a divorce. It can get overwhelming, so we’ve put together a series of articles that cover what you will find helpful to know when embarking on the divorce process. Today, the practical things to consider when it comes to preparing for divorce. Plus, tips for staying organised..
(Preparing for divorce: practical considerations…continued)
Once you’ve decided to divorce, there’s suddenly a lot of moving parts. Getting yourself organised will help you feel like you’re on top of things. You’ve got a big, multii-faceted and often emotional job ahead of you. Not only that but there’s going to be a fair bit of paperwork and administrative stuff to deal with. Planning out your financials and organising your documents will go a long way to making this journey much less stressful.
1. Get family law advice
Knowledge is a powerful tool and getting family law advice early on can save you time, money and much stress later. Not only will you be fully informed of your rights and responsibilities under the law, but you’ll better understand what represents a sensible financial settlement.
2. Take an inventory
One of the first practical steps you can take is to start working out the assets and liabilities that will need to be dealt with in your divorce. This means essentially undertaking a comprehensive audit of your family’s joint and separate finances, which will be necessary to work out a settlement.
Make a checklist of all your assets with an estimated or real valuation. Work out the relevant documents that you need to locate and obtain more details about. This will include, for example, personal financial statements, real estate deeds, mortgage and loan documents, wills and trusts, insurance policies, super funds, debts and credit cards. It will also include things like tax returns, business records, employment contracts and other agreements. Any lawsuits or judgments against you or your spouse will need to be provided, as well as any settlement agreements or dismissals.
You’ll also need to take stock of personal property like jewellery, collectables, cars and anything else noteworthy.
It may not be possible to obtain every single thing initially. Just gather what you can and take note of any documents you think exist but can’t find. Your family lawyer can help you send document requests or subpoenas further down the track.
3. Get your documents organised
Keeping your divorce documentation organised will help you maintain your peace of mind during divorce.
- Keep a divorce binder
Group similar documents together, such as all home ownership records (deed, mortgage paperwork, etc).
- Have a master document list
To keep track of documents, it helps to create and update a master document list. This can include information on where documents have been sent and when, to help you keep track of any documents sent out.
- Keep a to-do notebook
Rather than scramble to remember every little thing your lawyer says, have a notebook inside your divorce binder for a task list. You can also write down any questions that you think of and have them all in one place for the next time you meet with your lawyer.
- Keep a divorce calendar
Keep track of all your appointments and court dates, the parenting schedule and any other important information.
4. Make a divorce budget
Being prepared for the costs of divorce will help you plan your finances and avoid nasty shocks. Bear in mind some of the following. If you hire a family lawyer, you’ll have legal fees, which vary greatly depending on the complexity of your situation. There may also be court fees for various aspects of the divorce process. You may also need to consider whether spousal support and child support will be payable by either you or your ex. There may be costs of renting a new home, and moving and setup expenses, including new furniture and appliances, and you may need a new car if you previously shared one with your spouse. And depending on your circumstances, you may also want to engage professionals such as financial advisors or therapists.
5. Handle all the admin
- Separate bank accounts and credit cards
Much will depend on how much financial independence you and your ex kept during your relationship. You may need to close joint bank accounts and open your own bank account. However, transferring funds from joint to individual accounts needs to wait until after your divorce settlement is finalised. You’ll want to close joint credit cards once outstanding debt is paid off. If you are a secondary cardholder, never run up debts out of spite. If you’re the primary cardholder and are worried your ex might run up debt, you’ll need to keep an eye on transactions. And ultimately, your lawyer might advise you factor any wanton spending into the settlement.
- Update contact information
If contact info is changing, advise schools and daycare, doctors, your family lawyer, your ex’s family lawyer, any financial advisors or therapists.
- Change your name
If you are changing your name back to your maiden name, this means updating all your ID, from your driver’s licence to your passport to your social media handles. Read more about changing your name when getting a divorce here.
- Revise important legal documents
It’s likely that your ex’s name is on crucial legal documents so make sure to update things like your Will, Power of Attorney, insurances, superannuation beneficiary nominations etc.
- Manage your passwords and digital world
Control access to shared accounts and services on devices by resetting passwords. Change unlock codes to your phones, computers and tablets. Update movie, music, gaming and streaming accounts, shopping accounts, cloud storage, software sign-ins (eg Microsoft Office, Google), messaging tools like Skype, travel or ticketing accounts and delivery services. If you have a password manager service, change the master password. Don’t forget to update your social media emergency contacts. Also, it’s a good idea to establish a secure email address just for communicating with your family lawyer.
Of course, you may well have kept some of these accounts totally independent during your marriage and therefore won’t need to change much. But sometimes it’s better be safe and sorry and treat everything as if it’s been hacked, replacing all passwords. And make sure to disable any location tracking software like Find My Phone.
Finally, don’t forget to change passwords for any security or doorbell cameras and to change settings for smart home devices.
Read more e-safety tips on our blog here.
- Separate insurance
Car insurance, health insurance, life insurance and homeowners/property insurance. It can all be a bit of an administrative headache, depending on how complicated your insurance affairs are. You’ll need to check each policy as to the procedure for removing dependents and so on. But remember you’ll have to keep all insurances in place until your divorce is finalised. Make sure to understand whether any of your policies have a cash value.
- Separate belongings
Most of the big ticket items (house, car, etc) will be accounted for in the divorce settlement. But there’s still a lot of other things that need to be divided, from functional items like clothing or electronics to personal mementos. It can help the process of sorting if you categorise your belongings into three groups:
Things I care about
Things I don’t care about
Things I’m ambivalent about
This can help narrow the items in dispute and effect compromise on some goods. Dividing assets and belongings is typically quite challenging and is often an emotional, purging process. But resist the urge to throw away all memories of your ex—over time, your feelings about them may change.
Going through divorce and having to untangle your life from someone else’s is never going to be easy. But having a plan and knowing what you need to do will go a long way towards reducing stress and anxiety.
Take advantage of our no-obligation, free first half hour conference. It’s a great way for you to see if we are a good fit for your needs. Contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.