Preparing for Divorce
No one wants a divorce and any ending of a happy marriage will sure leave a deep scar in a married couple. By preparing for a divorce, your life is about to change. It is about your future, your life. The bad thing about divorce is that it is a business transaction and is a costly affair in which you may need solid legal and financial information to navigate the process. Emotions should not play a role in your ability to make solid business decisions and when emotion creeps in, your lawyer will have difficult tasks to advise you. So it is important that you pay careful attention to the preparation of your case because distribution of marital property, custodial agreements for your children, child support, and maintenance will all be tabled to court. In a divorce case, there are three levels of preparation – emotional, financial and legal.
Before you initiate a divorce:
1. Get your documents in order.
When you know divorce is inescapable, you need to start your preparation for the fight. You need to get all the ammunitions and supplies ready. How and Why? You may think it is absolutely unnecessary but you may find a financial hole in your pocket if you are not ready for the fight. What we mean here is that you need preparation which starts, first, with keeping of all important documents to yourself and you may have to make copies of them and put them in a secure place. These documents may include important financial documents and should be kept away from the eyes of your spouse. Both you and your spouse will need access to financial documents when the divorce is filed and you should at all costs ensure that financial papers such as tax returns, insurance policies, bank statements, investment accounts, salaries, and benefit or retirement program information be kept away from spouse.
2. Get Information of Your Spouse’s Assets
It is important that you begin in discreet to compile all financial assets and property of your spouse. Gather as much information as possible and be supported with documentary proof. You spouse may have properties worth millions locally or overseas in which you are not aware of. Your spouse may have huge accounts in Swiss Bank or with Bank of England. You may wish to engage a private investigator to trace the assets and properties of your spouse. Keep copies of them in a secure place and never speak about it to anyone else except to your lawyer or a lawyer whom you can trust. To know assets of your spouse is important because you can instruct your lawyer to place a caveat on your spouse’s landed property with the Lands Department before proceedings be filed or to get a temporary order from the court to prevent your spouse from selling your spouse’s major assets pending decisions by court on the division of the property.
3. Track your expenses.
You may need to keep an accounting of all expenses with receipts, especially your children’s expenses. Besides whatever things you may spend on yourself, these may include expenses for tuition fees and records of pocket money for your children, optical, medical and dental expenses, rentals, salary slips, saving accounts, investments, insurance compensation benefits and all documentary assets of your assets. If you are still married and living together with your spouse, it is advisable to save all receipts for all your major purchases. You may need to prepare an inventory of all property and assets acquired during the marriage and to keep a current inventory personal assets or property in your safe deposit box.
4. Be prepared to open a bank account in your name.
Choose a bank that is separate from where you hold a joint account or where your spouse does business. Although bank staffs are bound by confidentiality, they may inadvertently or negligently leak out transactions you have with the bank to your spouse. This can be a major blow to you because your spouse can lay claims to your money with the bank.
5. Do not commingle marital and non-marital property.
Any property you or your spouse had before you got married, or property that you inherited or received as a gift during your marriage is non-marital property. You need to keep all non-marital property separate from the marital estate. It is advised that you don’t put non-marital property into joint names with your spouse and do not use your non-marital money to pay for family expenses or purchases, or to pay down debts. This can complicate matters during negotiations and during trial.
When relationship goes bitter, your spouse may wish you to sign certain documents. Read them carefully or get your lawyer to explain them to you the legal implication or effect of the documents. You may seem able to read and understand, but, how much could you understand? Legal documents are always full of jargon language and even lawyers found them difficult to interpret and understand. It is this reason matters went to court when parties dispute and could not understand the contents of the documents well. Do not sign any documents, contracts, promissory notes, deeds, mortgages, transfers or whatever papers that comes along with them if asked to do so by your spouse if you could not understand them or know their effect and implications. You may need to understand that the consequences of signing any documents or papers may be irreparable and can be highly prejudicial to your legal and financial rights in your divorce matter.
7. Proof of Emotional Distress
If adultery, impotence and cruelty are grounds for divorce you may suffer from mental and emotional distress. This will be bad and you may need to see a specialist doctor to help you. You need to inform your lawyer if this happened and a medical report need to be obtained as evidence of damages and physical assault by your spouse.
As a parent, it is advisable to keep a diary of all things you do with your children and the treatment your spouse caused to you when you are with your children. Make note as well of any negative events, such as arguments started in front of your children or ridiculing comments made about you in their presence. If your spouse fails to show up to pick up the children as scheduled, write it down too. Gather evidence to support what you wrote in your diary. This might involve lining up witnesses who are able to help you in court about your parenting skills or your spouse’s poor attitude and care towards children. Police reports and school records need to be kept. Your spouse may do the same too. So gather evidence so that you can explain in court situations that your spouse may use against you.
8. You Must Have Financial Means to Fight
To fight a divorce, you must have the financial means to sustain the tedious process. In between trial, there could be many applications, processes or proceedings before the court that can tear you off financially. If your spouse is not satisfied with the court’s decisions, your spouse can always appeal to the Court of Appeal and then to the Federal Court. If you have no financial means to fight further to appellate courts, you may lose all what you have gained at the lower court. This will be a very costly and tedious affair.
The battle will be very long and may take many years before there will be an end to it. It will be very stressful and a lawyer who is not very disciplined and focused on your matter could also be drained out and give up the fight faster than you if you do not have the finance to supply the much needed “fuel” to him.
9. Who the lawyer you should pick?
Here, you may not wish to simply pick a lawyer you just know, but, a lawyer who could be trusted and skillful to do the job for you. The lawyer must be able to protect your interests and not to advise you to simply give in to demands of your spouse. Besides sound knowledge of the law, your lawyer should also be a skillful negotiator plus the instinct to detect the weaknesses of his contemporaries or your spouse in fighting the case during negotiations or in court. Your lawyer should have the experience to negotiate, litigate and be able to resolve divorce issues in your favour whether you are struggling with child custody, division of assets and maintenance.
Of all factors, you may wish to settle down with a lawyer that is cheap but it is advisable to go to a lawyer that is within your budget or if you can afford it, a skilful and experienced lawyer who fees may slightly be higher but, who will be committed and willing to do a good job for you. Cheap lawyer will give you cheap stuff because he knows he lacked the skill and experience to allow him to command a higher fee than his contemporaries could command. At the end of the day, more miseries will befall on you. You pay a cheap lawyer and will end in no protection at all. Your properties and assets will be gone with your spouse and worst if you can’t even have access or custody of your children. Think about it!