The events leading up to a divorce can be heartbreaking, but once you've decided divorce is the only option, it's time to begin thinking rationally. You may face issues you are not familiar with, such as your family's properties and finances. It's important to do some planning as early as possible in order to protect yourself. This can also reduce stress and possibly save money. Here's a list of Do's and Don'ts that may help you prepare for your divorce process.
Hire a good lawyer- Lawyers understand the divorce process from the beginning to the end, especially all the paperwork, and will make sure your rights are protected. They will also deal with your spouse's lawyer, if he or she has already hired one.
Document everything-Keep records of everything that might help your case. Organize documents pertaining to bank accounts, investments, real property, etc. Texas is a community property state, which means everything acquired during the marriage will be divided as close to 50/50 as possible. Any personal items you owned before the marriage, including inheritances or properties, are not considered community property. Gather documents proving ownership of these items.
Become familiar with your finances- What debts do you owe together, such as a home, car, or credit cards? What debts were accrued before the marriage? What are your yearly taxes? How will the divorce effect your retirement benefits and insurance policies? Gather as much documention concerning your finances as possible before you file.
Estate planning- Many people don't think about this. Is your spouse listed as the beneficiary of your estate? Does he or she have medical or financial power of attorney over you? Did you leave your spouse any specific item you want your family to have? If so, you should change these things as soon as possible.
Get a job- You may not receive any money in a settlement. Be prepared to support yourself. Determine how much you need to pay your rent and monthly bills. Also, being unemployed won't stop the court from ordering you to pay child support. Figure that into your budget, if necessary
Don't lie to your lawyer- He or she needs to know the good, the bad, and the ugly in order to protect you. If your lawyer doesn't know some piece of information that your spouse's lawyer does, it will be difficult for him or her to defend you. Besides, it's privileged information.
Don't miss court dates- If you are served and you know the date, be there or have your attorney represent you. Otherwise, your spouse may be able to get a default order against you.
Don't violate court orders- Make sure you understand and obey them. Otherwise, you may be held in contempt of court.
Don't hide money- Again, Texas is a community property state. Anything acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. If you try to hide money electronically, it can easily be found. Documents don’t lie. If you do this, the court may order you to reimburse your spouse or worse.
Don't sell any assets without your spouse's approval- All assets are to be divided equally by the court during the proceedings. However, if both parties agree, some assets may be sold. Be sure to keep records, so your spouse can't accuse you of failing to get a fair price.
Don't make large purchases- Anything bought during divorce proceedings is still considered marital property, even if you bought it on your own. The court might even award this purchase to your spouse.
Don't stop paying bills- Unless you and your spouse have made previous arrangements, don't stop paying marital bills. The court will consider this when dividing property.
Don't start a new relationship- Again, in Texas, you are married until the divorce is legally ended and this could technically be considered adultery. Not to mention it will make your spouse very angry and prevent any reasonable settlement. Remember, it’s in your best interest to be nice and respectful to your spouse because they’ll be more likely to give up the goodies to you.
Don't abandon your children- Don't move out and avoid seeing your kids just because you and your spouse aren't getting along. Staying in contact with them will help them deal with the trauma of the divorce and your children really need both of you at this time.
Don't post about your divorce on social media- Don't post anything before, during, or even after the divorce. Anything you post is public information and could be used as potential evidence against you. This also goes for text messages and emails. As they say, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.