What’s your credit score? Will you be able to refinance the marital home if you keep it? What are your monthly expenses? What are the financial assets and liabilities that must be divided during your divorce? These are just a few of the questions you will face during the divorce process in Georgia. As Atlanta divorce attorneys, we know that facing the financial aspect of the divorce process can be overwhelming and frightening. One way to ease that fear and take control of your divorce process is to educate yourself, and to be as prepared as possible. Listed below are five steps you can take to prepare and protect yourself as soon as you are confronted with the prospect of divorce.
Gather and make copies of financial records and statements. Identify all of your jointly and individually held checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, and insurance policies, and print out or make a copy of the most recent statements. For you bank accounts, if you have access to the last years’ worth of statements, print or copy those as well. It is likely your divorce attorney will need these documents to determine what financial division is best in your case. In addition to your bank statements and insurance policies, also make a copy of your tax returns for the last three years, your mortgage statements, and any other documents relating to your finances. These documents will also help your divorce attorney resolve your case. Once you have gathered these important financial documents, be sure to store them is a safe place.
List your assets and liabilities. Make a list of every asset you own. When making this list, don’t just focus on the obvious assets, like the marital home or financial accounts. This list should also include assets like antiques, season tickets, family businesses, and rental property. Next, make a list of all liabilities, including every credit card or other debt. When making these lists, be sure to include everything, even items you or your spouse claim to own individually. In Georgia, every asset or debt accumulated during the marriage will be deemed marital property, unless some exception applies. So, it is very important that you have a full understanding of all marital assets and debts. Otherwise, you may lose out on your fair division of marital property.
Request your credit report. If you plan to keep you marital home post-divorce, it is likely you will have to refinance the mortgage into you name only. If you don’t have credit in your name alone, or if your credit is less than stellar, get a copy of your credit report and begin to establish and/or work to improve your credit now.
Keep a close eye on joint accounts. If at all possible, work with your spouse to pay off or reduce any jointly held debt. Also, check the balances of any jointly held bank accounts regularly. Sometimes, spouses considering or going through the divorce process spend irresponsibly or make withdrawals they otherwise wouldn’t make, to financial disadvantage the other spouse.
Make a budget. Making a budget is important for two reasons: 1) it is necessary to complete a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (which is basically a detailed budget) in almost every Georgia family law case, especially if the case involves child support, alimony or the division of property, and 2) a budget will show you exactly what your expenses are and how much income you need to meet those expenses. Making a budget will give you a head start on completing the Financial Affidavit, and will better inform you of what alimony amount of financial settlement would be economically best for you.