You should decide if possible with your spouse the process you would like to use to dissolve the marriage. Collaborative divorces have become more common today and may be the cheapest and most civil way to dissolve a marriage. A collaborative divorce is just as its name implies-you and your soon to be ex-spouse work together with your individual attorneys to work out the settlement agreement. You can hire financial advisors and/or counselors to assist you, your spouse, and the attorneys in this process. Once the agreement is on paper, one of the attorney’s would file the legal request for the divorce and approval of the settlement. The disadvantage of this method is that if you cannot come to an agreement, you both have to fire your lawyers , hire new ones, and start the process all over again.
If you can’t agree to proceed with a collaborative divorce, you could file using the traditional process and decide on whether you wanted to use a mediator.
Deciding on the process of divorce will help you choose the right attorney to fit your needs. It is also a good idea to interview a few attorneys before deciding with whom you want to work.
What you need to know
You and your wife share responsibility for your debts, joint credit cards, car loans, taxes, and mortgage or rent equally-50/50. No court of law or bill collector will give a good gosh dang if most of the charges on the MasterCard came from your wife’s cruise with her lover. You are still equally responsible.
You need to be honest about your assets. More times than not, partners who try to hide assets are unsuccessful.
Your children are the responsibility of both you and your wife. Don’t even think about trying to get out of paying your share of child support. Your children are innocent victims of the failed marriage. Don’t ever withhold money from them to spite your wife.
If you own a home, this may be the most difficult financial tie to cut. Even if a judge orders the two of you to sell the house, your spouse can still make it very difficult. If she wants to remain in the house, she could refuse to accept reasonable offers from potential buyers or not leave the house in poor condition so that it doesn’t show well in order to avoid selling the house.
What you should do next
Find out as much as possible about your joint debts as well as well as your individual debts. If necessary have your attorney assist you in asking your spouse for full disclosure of all financial records and accounts. If you have not been the individual actually managing the task of paying the bills, there may be a lot you need to learn about your financial situation.
You should open up individual accounts for checking or savings, and things like car insurance. If you have direct deposits of salary or other income into a joint account-change this to your individual accounts. Do not incur any additional joint debt. Also try to pay as many of your bills on time as possible.
Things you should be prepared to do as the divorce is being finalized
You will need to change your estate will, your living will if you have one, and all insurance policies as your divorce becomes final. While you are still legally married you should not change any of your beneficiary designations. Your attorney will also be able to help you decide the best time to do this.
For more information on collaborative divorce go to http://wislawjournal.com/2007/10/22/aba-opinion-is-welcome-statement-on-collaborative-divorce/