Find Out The Things to Do Before Filing for Divorce
If you and your spouse are having trouble coming to terms with a contentious issue such as child custody, property division, alimony, or even visitation rights, don't let emotions cloud your judgment. If you both agree that you want to resolve the matter amicably, there are many ways to do so—including mediation, arbitration, negotiation, collaborative divorce, and settlement conferences. But if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, you'll probably end up hiring an attorney to represent you in court.
While most people think of lawyers as being adversarial, most cases can be settled outside of court. In fact, most divorces are resolved without a trial. To ensure that you get what you deserve, you need an experienced lawyer who understands how to negotiate effectively.
You've got plenty of options when choosing a lawyer. For example, you might choose a general practitioner who specializes in family law. Or you could look into a firm that offers prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements. Another option is to hire a lawyer who focuses on family law exclusively. And finally, you could consider hiring a divorce attorney who practices out of his or her home office.
Once you've found someone you trust, take some time to talk to him or her about your situation. Ask questions about the process, including what happens during discovery and how long it typically takes to reach a final resolution. Also, inquire about fees. Some firms charge hourly rates, while others bill according to the outcome achieved. Make sure you understand exactly what each fee entails.
Finally, don't forget to ask about the possibility of contingency fees. These are fees paid by clients if the case settles prior to trial. They usually range from 25% to 35%. This means that if you pay $10,000 in legal fees, you'd receive $7,500. Of course, contingency fees vary depending on the complexity of the case.Organize Your Finances
The next step is to figure out how much money each party brings into the marriage. This includes income, retirement benefits, and investments. If one partner earns less than the other, there could be a significant disparity in wealth.
Next, look at what each person owes. This includes debt like mortgages, credit card bills, student loans, and car payments.
Finally, take inventory of everything else. This includes property such as cars, furniture, jewelry, and appliances. There might even be some hidden gems that aren't worth anything now but could become valuable later.
Once you know exactly how much each partner owns, you're ready to start negotiating.Establish Credit In Your Own Name
If you're filing for divorce, establishing credit in your own name alone could help you avoid paying child support or alimony. You may also want to consider opening a joint bank account with your ex since he'll likely still have access to his funds.
You might even consider getting a secured loan in your name only — just make sure you understand how much interest you'll pay.
In addition, you can apply for a personal loan in your name only. This type of loan is usually easier to qualify for than a traditional mortgage.Gather Proof of Income
Before filing for divorce, it's important to know how much money each party brings home every month. This includes both salary and profits earned from running a business. If you and your spouse aren't salaried employees, there are still ways to figure out what you earn. For example, if you run a small business, you might keep track of sales receipts and expenses. You could also ask your accountant or bookkeeper about your earnings.
If you and your spouse are self-employed, you'll need to provide proof of income. Copies of bank statements and financial records will show where your money goes. Your lawyer can help you determine how much money your spouse makes and whether he or she earns enough to support you.Evaluate Joint Financial Accounts
Divorce is never easy, especially when one party fears what the other might do. In some cases, spouses are afraid their partner will try to empty out their bank account or take control of their retirement savings.
If you suspect your spouse of trying to access joint finances without permission, consider taking action now. A good way to protect yourself is to open separate accounts in your name alone and move half the contents of joint accounts into those new accounts. This will make it harder for your spouse to siphon off cash or withdraw retirement funds.
You don't have to hide this fact, but you'll want to document everything you're spending so that you can prove how much you spent later if needed.Close All Joint Credit Accounts
Before you separate, if possible it's best to pay all debts in full. By paying off all debt before you go through a divorce, you'll avoid having to split the bills during separation and make it easier to settle things once the dust settles. You can also save money on attorney fees because there won't be any legal battles over who gets what. But how do you pay off all those pesky joint credit cards? Here's a step-by-step guide to help you out.
- Close all joint credit accounts. If you've got multiple credit card accounts, you might want to close all of them. Not only does it prevent you from spending unnecessarily, but it also makes it much harder to access each others' information.
- Pay off one joint credit card first. Once you've closed all of your joint credit accounts, choose one to focus on paying off first. Choose whichever card has the lowest balance, and put aside whatever amount you think you can afford to pay toward it every month.
An experienced divorce attorney in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, and Stafford, Texas at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, can provide guidance and offer advice throughout the entire process. Contact us today at www.thorntonesquirelawgroup.com for a free consultation.