Here is some great guidance for those considering divorce or who are already engaged in the process. It includes information on what you need to know and how to take care of yourself.
- Make sure you know the time lines in your state for date of separation (usually the date one party leaves the marital house or for couples that can’t afford to physically separate, the date that one party files for divorce).
- Is your state a no-fault state or do you have to sue your spouse for divorce based on some violation of the marital vows? Most states today are no-fault states, which mean you can’t be denied. This is a very important question to ask in your first consultation with an attorney.
- Make sure all your financials are in order and that you know where all the community property funds are. Make sure you make a list of all marital assets (houses, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, savings accounts, retirement funds, checking accounts, cars, boats, planes, jewelry, etc.).
A. The Difference between Personal Property and Community Property – Personal Property is money and property that you either had prior to marriage or that you received as part of an inheritance during the marriage. Even if you have used this money for mutual means during the marriage, if you can trace it coming in from a separate source, it will remain yours after divorce. You do not need a Pre-Nuptial Agreement for pre-marital funds and property to remain as part of your personal property.
B. Community Property – Are all assets that the marital couple has gained during the marriage; all money that is earned, property purchased (with the exception if one of you used personal money for the down payment. That can be deducted from the community asset at the time of divorce if you can prove that those funds came from an independent source), retirement funds, securities, etc. The only instance where personal property may become part of the community property is if it is legally given to the community by the individual in a pre-nuptial or post nuptial agreement.
- Make a list of all furniture and other valuable items from your house(s), safety deposit boxes, jewelry, etc. Items that are your jewelry (male or female) will remain yours unless it was a family heirloom from your spouse’s family. Personal community property will have to be divided up. Making these lists ahead of time, saves problems for the future. We are always hopeful that marital partners will be honest during divorce, but that is not always the case.It is important to know all of your personal and community financial information throughout marriage. However, it is critical when you are considering or have made the decision to separate or divorce. This is the area that most problems arise during divorce. In fact, even when there are children involved, some of the worst battles over custody are really not about the children at all, they are about one parent not wanting to pay the other child support. So know your financial affairs and make sure you keep an up to date list of all property and money.