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Planning an Exit Strategy
As with any major life change, it is advisable to have a plan before you begin the process.
Below is a checklist of sorts, which may be helpful to those considering a divorce. It may be more advantageous to complete some of the items on this list prior to informing your spouse that you are seeking a divorce. However, other items on this list may be easier to perform once you and your spouse have separated.
Model “Exit Strategy” for a divorce
- Collect and maintain copies or records of important information, like financial, personal, and insurance related information.
- Protect sensitive information by privatizing important computer files if you are sharing a computer with your spouse. If you share common passwords or other credentials to computer files or online accounts, it is best to change those passwords – especially your email account. Also, forward any mail that may contain private or sensitive material to a Post Office box or a relative’s address. Similarly, if changing your password on your email may raise too much suspicion, try opening a different email account with a password only you would know.
- Sever the financial ties between you and your spouse. Open and maintain a personal bank account at a different financial institution than your current accounts and your spouse’s accounts. Some banks will improperly use accounts in one spouse’s name within their bank as a source of funds for fees and overdrafts from other accounts. This is less likely to happen at a different financial institution. Keep enough money in this account to support yourself (and your children) during the pendency of the divorce. As discussed above, send those statements to another, private, address. Do not transfer or move funds that could possibly belong to your spouse. Seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney if you are unsure.
- Do not alter, transfer, assign, or make a gift of any marital assets that are titled in both you and your spouse’s name. Seek the advice of a divorce attorney before taking any steps that may concern the separate property of your spouse.
- Make a projected budget! The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. Being able to quickly ascertain the amount of your monthly income and expenses will be critical in completing the documents required for a divorce in Georgia.
- Try to avoid accumulating any new or additional debt. It is important to keep your assets as liquid as possible.
- Stay active in the lives of your children. Maintaining an active presence in the lives of your children will not only make the transition easier for them, but it will also place you in a better position regarding custody and child support matters.
- Research alternative healthcare options if your coverage is tied to your spouse or their employer. If you are personally covered by your spouse’s health insurance, please note that coverage will terminate at the end of your divorce.
- Keep a journal of any and all facts, times, dates and events surrounding your marriage, children, and divorce. This evidence may be helpful to your attorney when representing you. Also, make sure you maintain the evidence in a secure location where your spouse will not find it.
- Plan for the future. Research ways to support yourself if you are not already gainfully employed. If you are employed, stay employed. It is vital to ensure that you are able to support yourself and maintain assets like your home or car during what could be a prolonged process. Additionally, it is important to begin thinking about where you and your spouse will live during your separation. It is common for couples to live separately during the pendency of a divorce. So it is best to determine if you will stay in the marital home or relocate.
- Obtain legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your state. An experienced divorce attorney may be able to provide you with more specific and personalized advice on what more you should do in order to prepare for your divorce.
- Talk about the divorce with your spouse - Once you have prepared yourself, it is time to begin the process of preparing your spouse for the eventuality of the divorce. Although the thought of announcing to your spouse your intentions for divorce may seem daunting, it is necessary. It is best to ensure that the initial conversation with your spouse about divorce is as pleasant as possible. This may seem counterintuitive; however, the initial conversations with your spouse will set the tone for the proceeding divorce litigation and post-divorce life. Remaining positive and calm will help with settlement negotiations, and it will also help establish the tone for your post-divorce relationship with your spouse Divorce is a difficult process and mitigating the emotional trauma throughout the process reduces the likelihood of permanent bitterness between spouses.