How Do I Protect Myself Before Divorce?
The threats of a shattering relationship can turn ugly real quick. In a divorce, the bitterness can lead to vindictive actions. Escalation can be all too common as you and your spouse cope with splitting a shared life into two independent ones.
As a divorce becomes more and more likely, time is of the essence. You don’t want to feel trapped as you lose ground to your more aggressive other half.
That’s why you’ll want to protect yourself before a divorce with these tips:
- Set expectations before your divorce
- Protect yourself by being decisive
- Protect yourself by protecting your finances
- Know the divorce laws in Virginia by consulting with a divorce lawyer
Set Expectations Before Your Divorce
The most important first step to protecting yourself is to set reasonable expectations for yourself. Without the proper expectations, you’re liable to be blindsided and behind the ball.
Don’t Expect Anything to Come Easy
Divorce goes to court because it’s a big deal to split children, money and property between two spouses. Nothing is guaranteed to be cut and dry.
For example, something as simple as proving that a house that you bought before your marriage should be legally yours during a divorce case might be difficult. If your spouse contributed to the house during the marriage, they might argue for splitting it equally or getting credit for part of the equity in the property.
All of these complications could become costly. Part of expecting that a divorce is going to be hard is expecting that it will be financially hard. Start saving up as soon as you can and cut unnecessary spending until the divorce is finalized.
Don’t Expect Mediation to Fix Everything
In a rose-tinted world, mediation would always be the best route for two divorcing people. It certainly sounds like a more civil fix to the situation.
The problem is that mediation is sometimes too little, too late. The issues that are moving the marriage toward a divorce are already in motion.
Mediation, often seen as cheaper than hiring a lawyer, will still cost you something. If the mediation reaches an impasse, you might not have anything to show for the cost you spent on it. It is always better to try to reach a divorce settlement without going to court, and that should always be attempted during any time during the process of divorce.
Don’t Expect That Representing Yourself Is Fine
While it’s possible to represent yourself in a divorce trial, better legal preparation always wins.
It’s rare that you’ll be able to represent yourself in your divorce case and not have any hiccups. Dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s is why divorce lawyers like Cravens & Noll are so helpful in these circumstances.
Plus, you can’t protect yourself alone when your spouse brings their lawyer to the table. By numbers alone, it becomes an unfair fight. It’s two against one.
Protect Yourself By Being Decisive
When divorce is inevitable, the sooner you hire a divorce attorney, the sooner you can protect yourself. A good divorce lawyer will advise you on the best next steps as you work through uncertainty and complications.
Without a lawyer, common sense choices could hurt you in the long run. If you discuss dividing property before the official process gets underway, the agreement might not be in your favor. You could think that you are smoothing everything out by being agreeable and reasonable. In reality, making any move before hiring a lawyer is likely to have unseen implications.
By being decisive and hiring a lawyer, you immediately tap into a knowledgeable advisor with a lot of experience. Unlike asking a divorced friend for helpful tips, an experienced divorce lawyer has worked on hundreds of cases. They’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly and they know what you need to do to protect yourself.
Protect Yourself By Protecting Your Money
Being decisive sooner can also help you protect your finances.
Time to Save Up in a Personal Account
A separate bank account in your own name will allow you to start saving money for yourself. The switch from a joint bank account to separate bank accounts means that the money you have will be yours to afford everything related to the split. If you are still residing with your spouse, the funds may still be considered marital property. However, if they are used for expenses such as lawyer fees, mental health counseling, private investigators, or regular and reasonable living expenses, a Judge most likely consider that reasonable expenses and you will not have to account for the expenses. If you save separately after separation, the funds most likely will be considered separate property. Whether it’s mediation fees, lawyer fees, or paperwork fees, having the financial strength to cover those costs yourself will protect you from being dependent on your spouse.
Savings in a personal account will also help you to survive changes in income. Your married income could be built on one primary breadwinner or dual incomes. The result would be the same. After the divorce, your income will change. It’s best to save up to cover whatever comes next.
Make a Budget for During and After the Divorce
You can protect your finances in a divorce with a budget. Although you can’t predict all of the expenses that could be associated with a divorce, there are some that you can. Start with what you know and check that you’ll be able to afford at least those. The more accurate you can budget for the cost of a divorce, the more financially stable you could be afterwards.
It’s also very helpful to know how much you’ll need to live on after the divorce. Start by looking back at your budgets for previous years. If you haven’t done one before, start tracking your expenses now.
Figuring out how much you need to live on is helpful in the divorce proceedings. You can protect yourself much better when you know how much money you’ll need to live on after the dust settles. If your spouse offers to cut a deal, you’ll have numbers to back up why it would or would not be something you can afford.
Pay Attention to Where Your Money Is Going
The final step in protecting your finances in a divorce is watching where your money is going. If you have a joint bank account, is your spouse spending money from it? Are they withdrawing funds without your knowledge?
Tracking your money is how you find and record how your spouse could be hurting your finances.
Know Virginia Divorce Laws (Hire an attorney who does)
The fourth and final tip for protecting yourself before a divorce is knowing what your state’s laws are.
Every state has its own laws surrounding divorce. Laws about the splitting of property could vary wildly from state to state. Minor points surrounding the complications of your unique situation could be handled differently than your divorced friend in another state.
Cravens & Noll is a family law firm in Virginia. We know Virginia divorce law. If you live in Virginia and you don’t know the laws about divorce, there’s no need to worry. We do. Give us a call and we’ll help protect you.
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