When a marriage is headed for an irreparable breakdown, it makes sense to prepare for divorce. Planning for that eventuality can provide many benefits. By planning, you can better protect your rights and assets. And it can lay the groundwork for a successful transition to life after divorce.
If divorce appears to be inevitable, here are some things you can do to improve your position:
Make copies of all of your financial statements - These should include statements for your separate and joint bank accounts, IRAs, 401(k) accounts, brokerage statements, life insurance statements, and other financial accounts. Keep these in a secure location such as at your office or with a parent.
Make a list of your other assets - Nonfinancial items such as art, antiques and collectables can comprise a large portion of the marital estate. Document these to the best of your ability. Include your home, vehicles and other personal property. If you have inherited family heirlooms, jewelry, or other items, include those on your list.
Make a list of your debts - Community debts as well as community property are subject to division during divorce, so note these as well.
Don't transfer, change title, or dispose of community assets without telling your spouse - If you do so, the judge could view this as marital misbehavior and punish you by awarding additional property to your spouse.
Don't run up debts - If you do, you may end up owing those debts yourself.
Find another place to live if necessary - Continuing to live under the same roof with your spouse until the divorce is finalized can save you money. But if that's not possible, look for an apartment or arrange to live with a relative or friend for awhile.
Change passwords for social media and email accounts - This can protect your privacy. You may wish to get a separate post office box for sensitive personal mail.
Decide how you are going to tell your children - Your lawyer has extensive experience in these types of matters and can provide guidance. Your priest, minister or rabbi may have advice as well, and there are also online resources on this subject.
Start a file for all of the paperwork - The divorce process will generate lots of paper, so keep these documents organized.
And this is the single most important thing you need to do:
Speak with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible - He or she can explain the divorce process and take steps that can protect your rights and assets.