When one member of the marriage files, that is the official beginning of the divorce process. A divorce filing out of the blue is the exception, not the rule. If you suspect your spouse is going to file for divorce, start making preparations. Certain dos and don’ts are equally important.
Do gather all of your financial documents. This includes paperwork related to bank, brokerage, stock, bonds and retirement accounts as well as any other financial instruments, including insurance policies. You’ll need your tax returns – local, state and federal – for the past five years. If you own a house or other real estate, you’ll need the deed, mortgage and property tax information, appraisals, leases and other pertinent information. If there is a business involved, find its net worth and income statement. Trusts and wills in which you have an interest are necessary. Provide a list of your personal property, whether marital or individual. That includes:
List all outstanding debts, ranging from mortgages to credit cards. Report any personal loans, employment contracts, pending legal matters and basically anything regarding your and your spouse’s financial situation.
Get organized, so you can find any relevant document quickly.
Do not move out of the house unless your spouse is physically abusive or otherwise dangerous.
If you are quite sure your spouse is going to file, you might decide to go ahead and file first. There are advantages to this. You have already collected the required financial and other documentation. If you suspect your spouse might start hiding assets – and it’s not uncommon – by filing first, you can protect marital assets through an Automatic Domestic Standing Order). This court order prevents either spouse from transferring financial instruments and from changing life insurance beneficiaries. Before filing, contact a matrimonial attorney.