By Marilyn A. Solomon
Dividing a family is tough, but by taking advantage of the right advice, you'll be able to get through it with the least amount of turmoil and distress. Here are a few simple tips:
Don't rush. Divorce is stressful and can be overwhelming. All too often, people rush into the divorce process without planning ahead. If you're considering a divorce, take some time to talk to a professional, weigh your opinions, and think things through logically to develop your strategy. You will need copies of financial records, bank statements, pay checks, tax returns, photographs, and other papers that you may not have another chance to obtain short of going through discovery or subpoenas later, which can be expensive. You may also want to take steps to protect valuables, collectables, savings, and investments.
Be civil. If you're planning on getting divorced, make sure every text message, Facebook post and email to your spouse (or anyone else for that matter) makes you out to be the good guy. If your email or text messages or Facebook account are subpoenaed or obtained in discovery, which they probably will be, you can bet that the opposing counsel will find a way to use them against you. Also, it never hurts to be civil and often causes expense and protraction of the lawsuit when you are not.
You are married until you are divorced. This goes for men and women. It doesn't take much more than a picture, a voice recording, a text message, or a Facebook post to substantiate an adultery claim. If the grounds for your divorce are deemed to be adultery, it could bar you from receiving spousal support or, conversely, if you are the one paying spousal support, it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the years!
Save up. A drawn out, contested divorce could go on for months or years. Don't leave yourself in a rut on the homestretch by not creating a financial cushion. Make sure to keep working and saving. If you need to, don't be afraid to borrow some money from family members or a bank. The cost of interest will be minimal compared to the thousands of dollars that a competent and experienced attorney will save you or gain for you in a divorce.
Don't just leave. Give marriage counseling a try to show the court that you made a good faith effort to stay together. If your differences are truly irreconcilable, don't just leave out of the blue, unless, of course, you feel as though you're in danger. If you just leave, you risk making desertion your spouse's grounds for divorce.
Divorce isn't the only area of the law that can get tricky if you don't have the right advice. Understanding bankruptcy law could mean the difference between having a successful case and discharge of your debts as well as losing your assets or keeping them.
Keep your car! If the equity in your car is less than $6,000, you'll be able to keep your car as long as you keep up with your payments. But even if you start to fall behind on your payments, the right attorney may be able to negotiate a deal with the finance company and often even get you a better payment plan for your car with a reaffirmation agreement.
Your retirement is still yours. After filing bankruptcy, most of the time, you can still keep your 401 (k) or IRA.
Twice the people, twice the exemptions (and a little more). If you're married, not only do you get to claim twice the exemptions on your property, but you're also allowed to keep your wedding and engagement rings.
Keep your heirlooms. So long as your family heirlooms have been handed down to you with the intention of handing them down to the next generation, you can generally keep heirlooms worth up to $5,000.
There are many other assets you are allowed to keep in a bankruptcy if your petition is done correctly, including household furniture, clothing, and tools of trade.
After many years of practicing divorce and bankruptcy law, I have run into the same mistakes clients make again and again. Make sure that you get good advice, think it over, and plan ahead before you step foot into the thorny worlds of bankruptcy and divorce.
Marilyn A. Solomon owns the Law Firm of Marilyn A. Solomon, 130 East Cork St., Winchester. Contact her at email@example.com or 540-678-0569.