Top Ten Tips When A Montana Divorce is ImminentMarybeth Sampsel
Whether you have made up your mind or fear that divorce papers will be coming your way, the following will help prepare you for the bumpy road ahead.
1. Meet with an Attorney
I highly recommend you speak with an attorney before you file for divorce or if you are concerned your spouse may be planning to file. It is never too early to arm yourself with vital information to get you through the divorce process. Make sure you find out what your rights and obligations are before the ball gets rolling.
Many divorce attorneys in Montana and the Flathead Valley will meet with you for a free consult. Remember, you should be able to have a confidential conversation during the consultation. But make sure you address this with the lawyer.
2. Set Aside Some Money
Though there is not always time, I encourage all clients to start setting aside the funds to survive for a couple of months without their spouses financial assistance. Often times, a spouse may stop paying household expenses or bills during divorce proceedings. You may also need to set aside additional money for an attorney’s retainer fee, a security deposit on a new residence, moving costs and the like.
3. Build Your Credit
Take the steps to build or reestablish your individual credit by getting their own credit card in their own name. This can help pay an attorney’s retainer fee or cover household expenses if you have not had time to set aside some money before filing for divorce.
4. Copy, Copy, Copy!
All too often, clients wait until it is too late to get their financial documents in order. Make sure you keep your own individual copies of past tax returns, wage statements or pay stubs, insurance information, household expense information, mortgage documents, financial liability information, etc. If you have children, you should also make copies of birth certificates, social security cards and insurance information.
In Montana divorce proceedings, both parties are required to disclose their income, expenses, assets and liabilities. It is significantly easier to disclose the information if you have copies of all the requisite documents.
Make a list of all the major items in your marital residence such as jewelry, artwork, furniture, recreational vehicles, appliances, etc. If you recall any information about the items, make a note of it. For example, if you have a piece of jewelry you inherited from your grandmother, make note on the list. In a Montana divorce, inherited items, gifted items and premarital items are treated differently; therefore, those details are important!
6. List Expenses
Haven’t balanced that checkbook in a few months? Now is the time to dust off the calculator and determine where every penny goes. Figure out a manageable budget for after the divorce is filed.
7. Determine Your Spouse’s Income
While you still have access to joint bank accounts and tax returns, gather as much information as possible about your spouse’s income. Make copies of pay stubs and bank statements and keep them for your file.
8. Evaluate Your Income
Determine if you could make more money and what it would take to do so. Could education or job training help? If so, how long would it take and what would be the approximate cost? If you have small children, can you work full-time and obtain daycare for them at a financially feasible rate?
9. Put Your Children First
Remember that your children’s needs and wellbeing should always be your first concern. Keep their lives as routine as possible and stay involved in their activities as much as you can. Don’t bad-mouth your spouse to your children, don’t argue in front of them and don’t use them as your psychologist, attorney or counselor. Consider finding a counselor or therapist for the children before you have filed for divorce.
10. Take Care of Yourself
While it is always important to put your children’s needs first, it is imperative that you take care of yourself before, during and after the divorce process. Filing for divorce in Montana should never be taken lightly and it can be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. Consider seeing a counselor to work through your feelings before you file for divorce. Prepare yourself for what can often be a long, drawn out process by eating right, getting plenty of sleep and exercising regularly.