Monday, December 28, 2009

Staying Ahead of the Curve: 12 Proactive Steps To Take If You Are Contemplating Divorce

I always recommend reading Sam Hasler's Indiana Divorce and Family Law Blog. He is a good source for staying current on family law issues because he writes insightful and interesting posts and also comments on posts he reads on other blogs. He recently wrote about a post he read in the Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Blog that is really appropriate for this time of year. At the same time that many people are making their New Year Resolutions, many other people are deciding to initiate divorce action. I often see a rise in divorce filings in January and February. People get through the holidays and then decide it's time to end their marriage.

For those who find themselves about to start on a divorce, the Minnesota blog has a great post with suggestions on how to prepare. The situations that Jason Brown mentions in his post occur all the time in Tarrant County divorces, and the need to plan ahead seems universal. Here's Jason's excellent article.

"Once you break the news of your desire to dissolve your marriage, interesting things may start happening at your house. Critical records and valuable items of personal property may suddenly vanish. It pays to be proactive to ensure that you have all the information you will need to move forward as efficiently as possible.

"The wasted time and cost associated with hunting down missing documentation can be staggering. We've handled cases where everything from an expensive diamond ring to boxes of business records have taken a bit a 'vacation.' We almost always find them, but not without substantial effort. In cases where they are not found, the Court will impose substantial sanctions and assume the missing evidence is favorable to you.

"To help avoid the mess, we've assembled a list of 12 things you should gather to ensure that you have all of critical information in hand before your spouse has a chance to conceal, transfer or sell items. These include obtaining:

"Copies of financial statements;
Copies of tax returns;
Copies of computer hard drives;
Copies of insurance policies;
Copies of wills and/or trusts;
Inventory of safety deposit boxes, with a witness;
Copies of deeds and/or titles to real property;
Copies of small business ledgers, financial journals, payroll, sales tax returns and expense account records;
Copies of appraisals for art, antiques, jewelry and collectibles;
Record the contents of each room in your home through video;
Copies of retirement account statements; and
Copies of your spouse's pay stubs for the last few months.

"Investing some time in gathering these items will ensure that your spouse cannot take advantage of you during the divorce process. The denial of the existence of an asset is a fraud upon the Court. Once your spouse knows that we have all of the key information in hand, they are far less likely to engage in bad faith conduct and [more likely to] be honest in their disclosures throughout the process."

I can't exaggerate the importance of taking time in advance and copying or gathering all these records. Much of your likelihood of success depends on the information you have. What you believe the facts to be is not nearly as important as what facts you can prove. Having these records will greatly improve your chances of proving the facts to your judge or convincing everyone in negotiations that you are correct and are prepared to try the case, if settlement fails. And that's the best position to be in.

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