SAN DIEGO, Jan. 9, 2016 – Divorce season is upon us.
Court statistics and the phone ringing off the hook in my office tell me it’s true. Divorce filings skyrocket in January.
Why is January the month so many people file for divorce? Some of it is the holiday divorce dam bursting. Couples who are the parents of younger children hold off filing for divorce between Thanksgiving and Christmas to avoid upsetting them during the holidays. Other couples just can’t add one more thing to their plate during a busy time of year.
But once the Christmas decorations are down and the New Year’s parties’ messes have been cleaned up, the rush is on.
Making the decision to get divorced is difficult no matter the time of year. It isn’t a snap decision for anyone. It’s usually the result of a thought process lasting weeks, months, even years. If there are children involved, it is even more gut wrenching. And having to hold the family together and put on a happy face when you know your marriage is crumbling can make it even worse.
But once you have crossed that bridge in your mind, heart and soul, now is the time to be ruthlessly practical. You need to protect yourself and you need to protect your children. This is not selfish. This is healthy, this is smart and this is in your long-term best interests.
So get moving. There is a lot to do. It is natural to feel overwhelmed, but it’s all got to be done eventually, and sooner is better than later.
As a family law attorney with experience representing hundred and hundreds of divorcing clients, there are some priorities you need to address first, BEFORE you deliver the bad news about your decision, before you hire an attorney, and before you file any paperwork. This advice applies equally to men and women, straight or same-sex.
- Make sure you get copies of all your financial records.
This includes bank statements, investment and retirement accounts, credit cards, loans and any other debts. Some spouses hide things. You will also be able to quickly tell and later prove if there are significant changes or movement of assets.
- Make sure you have a source of funds if you do not work outside the home.
Create an exit strategy with your attorney or financial adviser to take half of any community accounts and deposit them in an individual account of your own just before your spouse is served with the divorce papers.
- Make sure you disclose anything damaging about you and your situation to your attorney.
Sure, it’s embarrassing to admit to cheating, crimes, physical or mental health trouble, or sexting. But believe me, divorce attorneys have heard it all and then some. We are not shockable, and we will not think less of you. The last person you want to be blindsided by any misdeeds or skeletons in your closet is your attorney. He or she cannot help you to mitigate the impact if he or she knows nothing about it.
Attorneys do not gossip. All information you disclose is protected by attorney/client privilege and will not be revealed. Your attorney must be informed about everything your spouse can throw at you so he or she can protect your interests. This is especially critical when children are involved. These issues become a nightmare in child custody disputes if they are not addressed.
- Listen to your attorney’s advice.
If your attorney tells you something or asks you to do something, there is a reason for it. Usually it is to protect your interests and make things easier (and maybe less costly) for you in the long run. We know how to engage the legal system to your best advantage, and we have plenty of experience that tells us what works and what does not work. Avoid putting a match to the money you are paying for good legal counsel by ignoring it.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as lead counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, Calif., with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra. Fleischer can be reached via Google +
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