Usually when people are on their way to divorce, there are warning signs. More often than not, it is gradual rather than a sudden transition from happily married to icicles in the room.
If you see divorce coming, or even the possibility of it coming, there are six very important steps you can take to protect yourself and your future.
Step 1: Go See a Lawyer
The single biggest mistake that the divorce lawyers in our firm see is that potential divorcees wait way too long to seek legal advice. There are things that you can be doing to protect your assets and set up a more favorable outcome in the event you enter the court system.
Compare it to finding out that you might be playing the game of cricket on Saturday. You certainly would want to have someone explain what the rules are before you set foot on the field.
The lawyer will dispel the many myths that exist in the area of divorce. Your lawyer will ask questions about your particular situation and you will be walked through the divorce process and told what your likely outcome is if you go before a judge. This process takes about an hour and costs a couple hundred dollars but is well worth the time and cost.
Step 2: Gather Financial Information and Put It in a Safe Place
When your spouse decides that divorce is the only answer to your relationship, he or she may be hiding assets or information. A significant step that you can take is to make photocopies of all financial records that you have and take photographs of all of your personal property. It is amazing how many times the collectible items disappear before they can be accounted for and valued. The record of all of these assets should be kept away from your home in a safe deposit box or with a friend.
Step 3: Don't Try to Hide Money
Most people who try to hide assets from a spouse don't do a very good job of it. If you get caught having hidden assets, the judge is going to use that to give your spouse a lopsided division of property or not give you the correct alimony ruling. Judges have a great deal of discretion in divorce cases and you always want to appear to be the "good spouse" in the judge's eyes.
Step 4: Don't Bad-Mouth Your Spouse to Your Kids or Mutual Friends
It is way too common for divorcing parents to say terrible things about each other in the presence of the children in an effort to get them on their side. The same thing happens when speaking with the mutual friends.
Psychologists will tell you that this may win the children over temporarily, but eventually they will see through your comments and arrive at the opinion that the other parent who behaved properly is the one with whom they wish to associate when they become adults. A similar thing happens with the mutual friends of the spouses.
Step 5: Go See a Mental Health Professional
If you are in a divorce proceeding, or even contemplating it, you are likely stressed out. You need to speak with someone about your situation and see how you are being affected by the process. There may be a need for counseling sessions to deal with the anxiety and other emotional issues. On the other hand, you may find out that your head is screwed on pretty straight and you are handling things pretty well. It is vital that you find out your status because, under the circumstances, you are not able to make the evaluation yourself.
Step 6: Consider Changing Your Healthcare Directive
In just about every state, there is a document that you can sign that gives someone the right to make important medical decisions in the event that you are in a coma or otherwise unable to direct the physicians. Most people list their spouse as the designated person. You don't really want to be in a decaying relationship with someone and yet still rely on them to make the right decision as to whether to pull the plug on your respirator. Go ahead and change the designee. You don't have to tell anyone except the new designee and you can always change it back if you patch things up with your spouse.
Hopefully, you can work things out with your spouse and go back to the great relationship that got you together in the first place. In the meantime, take some steps to protect your interests in case things don't work out. Think of it as buying insurance.