Let’s keep it real: you’re not getting a divorce because you and your spouse are such good friends. Sometimes, a divorce can get more than ugly -- it can create an unsafe space for you and your children, especially if years of pent up anger and frustration are released. There are some simple steps for staying safe during divorce that may be highly adversarial. Remember, it’s important you keep your cool and try your best to make logical decisions. Getting emotional and impulsive is sure to have a negative impact on your case later.
It only takes a few minutes for your spouse to take a joint credit card and rack up a huge bill that you will be partially responsible for. So, one simple step is to inform your ex that you are going to cancel all joint credit cards, prior to actually filing for divorce.
Likewise, many people have their spouse listed as their executor and primary beneficiary in their will. Now is the time to get that changed.
While you’re at it, any document, such as your will, your diplomas, birth certificate, bank statements, financial records, titles, and deeds, etc. needs to be located and put in one place. Make a copy of any joint records and give one copy to your spouse, then immediately secure all your copies in a safe location.
If you have valuable separate property (not joint marital property) such as a valuable collection or something that has a high sentimental value, you should find a safe place that is outside of your home to store it. Remember that separate property is the property that you owned before your marriage. Any property that has accumulated since being married is considered marital property.
What do you do about the marital property? A video recording of all your property will be very helpful to have. You should try to make this recording with your spouse if possible, but if things are very hostile, then video everything in your house and all the marital possessions. Open drawers, pull items out so they are recorded, and make sure the date is visible on the recording. Make a copy of the recording and give it to your spouse. Store your copy somewhere safe.
The idea behind your property is to remove anything separate before it gets damaged or stolen and to make a video inventory of all marital possessions so that if something goes “missing”, you have a record of the last time it was seen and can verify that it was in the house.
Don’t sign anything before you have talked to your attorney. Your spouse may pressure you into signing some kind of preliminary agreement, only for you to find out later that you have lost a custody or property battle because of that agreement. You also run the risk that your lawyer can’t modify that agreement later. Best practice is not to sign anything until your lawyer gives you the OK.
Don’t let your spouse take the children and leave the house. If you are still sharing a living space, your spouse is free to leave but the children stay. Again, carefully follow your attorney’s advice here -- if you leave the house and the children in an attempt to be nice, you could lose a custody case later because you abandoned the children. Having said that, no one wants you to stay in a hostile, possibly violent situation.
If things are escalating in the house to the point where it is not healthy for the children or the police need to be called, you must speak to your attorney and get clear legal advice about what your options are. It is far better to have that discussion early than wait until something happens.
If you’re in a hostile divorce scenario, the two best things you can do are to document everything that happens (including comments made by the children) and hire an attorney. It’s a shame that some divorces turn so ugly, but the trick is to be prepared for anything that may happen.
If you are heading towards a contentious, hostile situation, staying safe during divorce is your first priority. You then need an experienced, caring fighter on your side. Family Matters Law Group has years of family law experience with successful litigation outcomes. If you are in the Atlanta metro area, contact Family Matters Law Group to set up a consultation. It’s important for you to stay safe during your divorce. We’re ready to fight for your children, money and your assets!