Tips when first separating from your spouse

If you are separating from your spouse, there are various things that you should do or not do during this time:

1. You should freeze any joint credit card debts so that your spouse does not continue to increase debt in your name.

2. You should freeze joint bank accounts if you are not going to be living together. If you need some of the funds to live, it is a good idea not to take more than half and to leave half for your spouse to prevent litigation. Your spouse can and sometimes will wipe out the entire account forcing you into litigation.

3. You should figure out a budget for yourself best on how much you earn and how much you will expect to receive or pay in support so you can figure out how much you can afford when looking for a place to live. An attorney can help you figure out this amount.

4. You should collect your statements from all your accounts both debt and assets so you can establish what the values were at separation.

5. You should not drop your spouse or children from health insurance as you may be required to continue coverage during the divorce.

6. You should not change the beneficiaries on any insurance policies until after your divorce and only if there is no court order to maintain coverage.

7. You should pull your credit report so you do not have any surprises on what may or may not exist during the divorce.

8. You should gather other important documents, including your marriage certificate, your deed, car titles.

9. If you are struggling emotionally with the separation/divorce, you should engage a good therapist to help you through the process.

10. If you are expecting to receive support you should file once you know you are going to move.

11. If you expect to have custody, make sure you move locally or first obtain permission from the Court.

12. Take the personal property items that are most important to you as oftentimes it is very difficult or cost prohibitive to fight over personal property later.

13. If possible, talk to your spouse and try to come to terms on things as much as possible and consider mediation or collaborative law as an option.

14. Hire an attorney who specializes in divorce if you decide that you need legal assistance to help you with custody or support or if you decide that divorce is your next step.  You should not have expectations based on what happened with a friend or relative’s similar situation.

15. Remember to be civil with your spouse. It will be easier and less expensive if you can handle matters with a respectful and practical approach.