When you are thinking about starting a divorce action, or have already been served with divorce papers, it is a topsy-turvy time; your emotions are in turmoil. Despite the upheaval, keeping your wits about you and taking a couple of concrete actions now can save a lot of hassle later. Try to stay calm even if your spouse provokes you; don’t say things you will later regret or that may come back to haunt you during the divorce. Keep a diary or journal detailing your interactions with your spouse or your spouse’s interactions with your children. While you are sure that you will remember what has happened, as time goes by you will forget details of what has happened and when it occurred and a diary or journal can be a real aid to you and your attorney.
If financial control has been an issue in your relationship, make copies of financial documents and/or write down all account numbers prior to discussing divorce with your spouse. This is especially helpful where a spouse keeps the family finances secret; financial documents in these situations have a tendency to disappear during a divorce, so having secured the information early on can save you time, money and stress when trying to unravel and follow a financial trail.
Move your important papers out of the house to a secure location, perhaps with a good friend or a relative. Keeping all of your papers in your car is not a wise choice—spouses have a tendency to rifle through the family car. It is the same with keeping your important papers in your briefcase or pocketbook—it is very easy to quickly search a briefcase or pocketbook when a spouse is out of the room. If you do decide to keep your journal or other papers in your pocketbook, don’t leave your bag in a place where it can be searched.
Change your email passwords and consider setting up a new email account. If you and your spouse have been using a family computer, it is very easy for someone to look through your email.
Please feel free to call me at no charge and we’ll talk for about 30 minutes so I can try to answer your questions. After we speak you may have a clear path you can pursue, or you may want to come in for a further consultation. If you decide to seek a consultation, below is a list of documents that will help me (or any attorney with whom you may work) learn about you and your situation:
1. Recent tax returns;
2. Bank statements;
3. Brokerage account statements
4. Retirement account statements;
5. Credit card statements;
6. A list of big liabilities;
7. Appraisals for any big assets.
If you cannot bring original documents, try to make copies of the documents. If you cannot copy documents, try to write down the account numbers for all accounts, whether in your name, your spouse’s name or in joint name.
If you are already divorced and coming in for a consultation regarding enforcement or modification of a judgment, you should assemble and bring with you the following:
1. A copy of your divorce judgment;
2. A copy of the Memorandum of Decision if there was a trial;
3. A copy of the Separation Agreement if the divorce was uncontested;
4. Copies of the financial affidavits that were filed at the time of the judgment;
5. Copies of any documents in support of your claims for modification or enforcement.
Having these documents will help explain your situation to your lawyer and make your consultation more efficient.