Divorce planning – Before you file for divorce, make a divorce plan.
If you are thinking about divorce you should consider making a divorce plan. A divorce plan can help you set obtainable goals and provide you comfort. We are committed to help our clients set and achieve goals. There is an advantage to being pro-active and a divorce plan is a smart way to address a stressful situation by taking control.
A divorce plan may change with your needs. For example divorce planning for a primary wage earner would be different that divorce planning for a dependent spouse. If you make more money than your spouse, you will likely have very different goals than if you earn less than your spouse. The primary wage earner typically wants to limit their financial exposure. If you earn less money than your spouse, you will likely want to maximize your financial gain. On the other hand, divorce planning for a dependent spouse includes maximizing their financial gain.
It is generally a good idea to set goals and make a divorce plan with a divorce planning specialists before telling your spouse you want a divorce.
Divorce planning considerations and guidelines
If you earn less money than your spouse, information can be empowering. We recommend that you:
- Make copies of your tax returns for the last (3) years.
- Make a complete list of all items of value including cash in your safety deposit box(es), jewelry box(es), under your mattress and/or the sock drawer!
- If you or your spouse has any retirement accounts or pension, obtain a copy of the pension plan and the yearly statements.
- Make a copy of your Last Will or Trust documents.
- Make a complete list of all automobiles, boats, airplanes and recreational vehicles owned or titled in your or your spouse’s name. Make a copy of registration(s), title(s), loan amounts and payment statements.
- Make a list of your monthly living expenses. (Including: rent/mortgage payments, utilities, food, clothing, laundry, transportation, medical/dental, education, insurance, vehicle payments, and entertainment.)
- Make a complete list of all business entities and/or ownership interests that you or your spouse now have or have had an interest in. Make copies of all financial business records.
- Make a complete list of creditors (persons or entities you or your spouse owe money to) and debtors (persons who owe you or your spouse money.) Include all outstanding benefits and obligations, including mortgages (application for mortgages), conditional sales, contract obligations, or promissory notes. Make copies of all statements and write down the balances owing.
- Make a copy of all Property deeds and appraisals. Write down the address, legal description and amount paid for all real property including the marital home, vacation and/or investment properties.
- Make a list of all personal property this includes all property that is not land (household furniture, furnishings, appliances, clothes, jewelry, tools, etc.)
- Make a copy of all investment documents and statements. Including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
- Make a copy of you or your spouse(s) gross compensation package, inclusive of all benefits.
- Try to have a complete physical to prevent potential non-coverage expenses.
If you earn more money than your spouse, you want to build trust, without creating financial exposure. We recommend that you:
- Try to keep the marital assets liquid or in cash.
- Try to have all your mail sent to your place of business.
- Try to keep all the assets in your own name to give you more control.
- Try to add your spouses’ name to all liabilities.
- Try to postpone bonuses and defer income until after the divorce to reduce liability for alimony and/or support.
- Try to terminate the marriage before your pension vests.
- Try to put away as much cash as you can.
- Try to pay all State and Federal taxes owing before the divorce.
Finally, regardless of who makes more money, we recommend that you:
- Do not make any major purchases (house, boat, car) or allow your spouse to make any major purchases on your behalf.
- Do not sign any documents or financial instruments without an attorney’s review. Never sign anything in blank.
- Do not quit work.
- Do not give your spouse unlimited access to your credit cards, checking account or other assets.
- Do not make any gifts (even to the children) of any marital asset.
- Do not transfer or assign any marital asset.
- Do not have an affair. If you already are having an affair, use discretion. Who is at-fault can have an affect on the division of assets, child custody, child support and alimony.
- Do not pay off your spouse’s separate debts, meaning debts held in only his/her name.
- Do not move out of the house (unless there is abuse or another compelling reason).
Finally, education is key. I encourage you to read the articles on this website and ask questions.
We are here to help you navigate this journey by focusing on your goals. If you have any questions concerning any aspect of the law, let me know. My direct line is 248-399-3300 or toll free: 877-968-7347.
Let our exceptional legal team help you . . . ,
Let it be our privilege to help.
By: Daniel Findling
The Divorce Guy, Michigan Divorce Attorneys and Specialists