TIME FOR DIVORCE—PLANNING MY EXIT
Okay! So the time has come. You have had it. You have tried everything you can possibly think of to save the marriage. Perhaps, you have even tried extended and significant marriage counseling which was painful and emotional—to say the least. And nothing has worked. You can't take it anymore. You need out! It is time to go! You are ready for a divorce, called a dissolution of marriage in Missouri.
If I have described you, then here are some tips and things to think about that will help you prepare for and get through this process.
1. Hiring A Lawyer
Take the time to hire a good attorney. Do your due diligence. Take the time to interview and talk to attorneys in making your decision about which attorney to hire. You need an attorney that you feel you can trust. You need an attorney who you will listen to.
The attorney's responsibility is to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. You already have your bar friends and your friends that will tell you what you want to hear. After all, they are your friends and they are there to support you and to help you through the process emotionally. So, they are most always going to tell you what you want to hear because they think that this is what you need to hear and it is what will make you feel good about yourself and your decision. Listen to the attorney that you hire. After all, you are paying that attorney for his/her advice and counsel. If you are not going to listen to the attorney that you hire, then don't hire the attorney.
Make sure you can have personal telephone access to your attorney. You don't need to deal only with an attorney's paralegal who will pass information back and forth between the two of you. If you wanted to hire the paralegal, then you would have hired the paralegal to do your divorce for you and not the attorney.
2. Learn About Your Assets And Debts
As part of your exit strategy, you must learn about your assets, what all you own, and the debts you have. One of the most difficult challenges for a divorce lawyer in a divorce case is to have the situation where the client comes into the office and is asked: "So tell me about your assets and debts." And the client responds: "I don't know anything about what we own or what we owe—my spouse controlled it all."
There is a tool in divorce cases called discovery. It is designed to learn about the assets and debts of the marriage. But it surely helps if the client has a basic understanding and knowledge of the marital assets and marital debts (i.e., what you own and what you owe). If you can't get that information, don't panic. It can be found out. It is just better if you know as much as you can about this kind of thing. The more you know, the better.
So, you might ask: How do I get this information? Look around the house. Look in your husband's desk or where the important papers are kept. Look in the file cabinet. Look in the safe. You will be surprised about what you can learn. Go to your bank. Get recent bank statements for all bank related accounts that you can. Talk to your husband's employer and the HR department to learn about who handles the retirement plan for your husband's employer. Get your hands on tax returns for the past few years. Talk to your tax preparer. Call any investment broker or investment company that you know of that may hold your all's investments. Get recent statements for any investment accounts. Be discrete. Ask some probing questions, if you need to, of your spouse to learn what you can about your assets and debts. You know more than you think and you can find out more than you may realize, if you will just put your mind to it. Be resourceful. Be like a private investigator and go to work to learn about your financial situation as much as you can as part of this process. You will be glad you did this.
It goes without saying. Get as much of this information together as you can before you make the big announcement that you are separating. It is much easier to get your hands on this type of information before you separate from your spouse than it may be if you wait to do this after you separate.
3. Get Organized
Hand in hand with learning about your assets and debts is getting yourself organized. It goes without saying that the better organized you are, the better you will make out in your divorce when it comes to dividing assets and debts and getting the custody arrangement you want. The parties must agree to an asset and debt division and custody arrangement. But, if they can't, then the Court will do it for you.
As a general rule, assets and debts will be divided pretty much equally, taking into account all assets and debts, unless there is an awfully good reason to give one spouse more than 50% of the net assets and debts. Being organized, learning about your assets and debts and getting all the documentation together that you can before you separate, will assist you, particularly if you think you may be entitled to more than a 50/50 division of assets and debts.
4. Develop Your Divorce Exit Strategy With Your Attorney
It is truly best if you talk with the attorney that you hire to develop your separation exit strategy, if at all possible in advance. I understand that this can't always be the case. But, in a perfect world, this is truly the best way to go. The attorney can time the filing of your divorce case to fit the separation exit strategy that the two of you develop.
Advice from a Raytown, Missouri Divorce Attorney
Hire a lawyer you can trust. learn as much as you can about your assets and debts. Get organized. Develop your separation exit strategy with your attorney before you separate, if at all possible.