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In Focus: Divorce Preparedness

Going through a divorce is a complicated process, with important decisions to make and details to iron out, particularly regarding your personal and financial future. Ultimately, it takes a skilled divorce attorney to help you navigate the legal system and protect your interests. In the meantime, this article is designed to help you get organized.

Be Prepared

In the event your divorce becomes contentious, you may need to be prepared for the malicious destruction of photos, heirlooms and other personal possessions by your soon to be ex-spouse. These items should be stored outside of the home for safekeeping. It is also important to make copies of all essential documents — financial statements, tax returns, deeds, mortgage documents, birth certificates, and other material — and store them in a safe place as well.

Today, protecting your online privacy and reputation in a divorce is also imperative. You can accomplish this by creating a new email address and changing the passwords for all your online accounts — financial accounts, social media, online shopping — and keep these away from your spouse. As we have previously reported (here), do not post anything about the divorce, your spouse, or your activities on Facebook, Instagram or elsewhere online since comments and pictures may be used against you.

Finally, obtain a copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com so that you can monitor your active credit and bank accounts or freeze accounts if necessary. Your attorney may also be able to resolve issues on any accounts associated with your name.

Review Your Insurance Coverage

In a divorce, it is crucial to change the beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies as soon as it is legal to do so. In addition, you should make plans for healthcare coverage if you are currently on your spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance policy. Given the possibility of a gap in coverage or obtaining less comprehensive coverage after the divorce, have any medical and dental procedures while your coverage is in effect.

Revisit Your Estate Plan

Once the divorce is final, it is crucial to create a new will so that your assets do not go to your former spouse. In addition, any other estate planning documents that are in place, such as powers of attorney, advance medical directives, or trusts, will also need to be updated.

The beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts, and other accounts, should also be changed, bearing in mind that such assets and debts are considered to be marital property subject to the rules of equitable distribution. Regardless of how these accounts are ultimately divided, it is important to take the necessary steps to transfer these accounts. Remember, dividing retirement accounts does not occur automatically and requires obtaining a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).

Parenting Issues

One of the most contentious aspects of divorce is resolving parenting issues. Unless the parents cannot agree, issues of child custody and visitation are usually memorialized in a parenting agreement. It is crucial for both parents to adhere to the plan, keeping in mind the changing family dynamics and the need for flexibility. Ultimately, it is important to give your children a semblance of stability as the family transitions to this new lifestyle.

The Takeaway

If you are considering a divorce, plan ahead so that your interests are protected. By working with an experienced divorce attorney, you can protect yourself, your children, and your future. Blair H. Chan, III, PLLC is a highly regarded divorce attorney serving clients in the Tampa Bay area.

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