10 Things to Do if Your Divorce is Imminent

Divorce is a stressful and confusing event in a person’s life.  It is easy to feel angry, overwhelmed, and lost; but if possible, try to keep your emotions and behavior in check as you move through the process.  It is also very important to be prepared.

Follow these 10 tips to help you through the divorce process: 


1. Consult a Family Law Attorney

In most divorces, there are many non-financial (for example, custody) and financial issues (for example, alimony, division of property, etc.) that are involved; however, no two divorces are the same.  In order to protect your unique non-financial and financial interests and the special circumstances of your case, you should discuss the issues, potential outcomes, and possible risks with an attorney knowledgeable in divorce and family law.

2. Insulate Your Child(ren) from the Process

Keep your child(ren) out of the process.  If you and your spouse are discussing divorce or any related issue, discuss it outside the presence of your child(ren).  If your verbal discussion becomes heated, move the discussion outside the presence of your child(ren), maintain your composure, and don’t let your emotions become actions that might lead to allegations of physical abuse or domestic violence or incidents of physical abuse or domestic violence.  Do NOT badmouth your spouse or his or her family to your child(ren) or in their presence. Encourage your child(ren) to speak openly to both you and your spouse.

3. Consult a Therapist or Mental Health Expert

Divorce is very stressful.  If you are having trouble coping or feeling excessively sad, you may want to talk to a therapist or other mental health professional about your feelings.  In Maryland, your conversations with a therapist are privileged and may not be divulged to your spouse or during the divorce case.  However, there may be practical or tactical reasons why your discussion with a therapist might be disclosed and the privilege waived.  Before you see a therapist or other mental health professional, unless there is a medical emergency (for example, thoughts of self-harm or harm to others), you may want to discuss therapy with your attorney before you start seeing a therapist. 

4. Determine Your Own Ability To Earn an Income

In Maryland, the concept of alimony or spousal support has changed.  Alimony is no longer intended to be lifetime support, and the spouse who has been outside the workplace to raise children or take care of the home may be encouraged to seek employment outside the home.  Although it may seem counterintuitive for someone seeking “permanent” or indefinite alimony to obtain employment, there are strategic and legal reasons why someone seeking “permanent” or indefinite alimony should try to get additional training and/or employment outside the home.  Again, every situation is different, and you should consult with your attorney regarding the best decision for you. 

5. Make Copies of All Important Documents

Your attorney, and possibly your spouse’s attorney, will want to see copies of your important documents. These can include:

  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  •  Tax returns, W-2s
  • Investment Statements
  • Mortgage paperwork
  • Social security statements
  • Wills
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement account documents
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Closing documents on any house or other real property
  • Vehicle titles
  • Pay stubs

You should obtain copies of the important documents and make a copy for yourself and your attorney.  Depending on your situation, you may need to give the copies to a friend or your attorney to hold for you until they are needed.

6. Understand Your Own Debt and Any Joint Debt

It’s important to understand your own debt and any joint debt that you may have with your spouse.  Get a copy of a credit report from the 3 major credit reporting agencies.  Get copies of all credit card statements, lines of credit, etc. for the last 3 years and review them.  If you and your spouse have a joint line of credit or other joint credit available to you, you may want to freeze or cancel the joint line of credit or other credit available to you.   Again, you should consult with your attorney before freezing or canceling any joint line of credit or other joint credit available to you.

7. Begin to Inventory Possessions

Make a list of all household and personal items, such as furniture, cars, jewelry, art and collectibles, appliances, computers, and TVs. Take pictures of all of the items on the list.

8. Change Beneficiary Forms

Complete change of beneficiary forms for all life insurance, annuities, retirement plans, bank accounts, etc. on which your spouse is listed as your beneficiary, unless you do not object to your spouse obtaining the benefits after your death.  There may be limitations on certain assets or retirement accounts that may limit your ability to change beneficiaries during your marriage.  Again, you should consult with your attorney before removing your spouse as the beneficiary of any assets or retirement accounts.

9. Change Legal Documents

Discuss with your attorney whether or not you should change or revoke any provisions in your Will, trust instruments, Powers of Attorney, Medical Powers of Attorney, Living Will, or other legal documents.

10. Joint Tax Returns

You should consult with your own attorney, accountant or financial advisor before signing a joint income tax return, as with certain exceptions, both individuals who sign a joint tax return are usually liable for any unpaid taxes, penalties, interest or other charges.  Your attorney may be able to prepare an indemnification agreement, which might provide some protection to you, before you sign a joint tax return.



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