You’ve decided to file for divorce, what do you do first?
That is such a good question. Planning is key to your divorce. Almost 100% of my clients who come in tell me that they don’t want to fight about divorce. Typically fights in divorces really revolve around the fact that both parties may not be educated about what they have together.
My suggestion and what I always tell my clients to do is to first inventory. Inventory everything.
Start with something small. So start with inventorying your household and your family possessions.
It doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list of every single kitchen utensil. But start listing the major items. You know, your dining room furniture, your kitchen appliances. How many bedrooms do we have? How much bedroom furniture do you have? That actually becomes a big issue in a divorce where there are children involved.
One family member is going to be moving out, either the husband or the wife. The other family member may be staying in that house.
The next question will be, who gets to take the kids’ furniture? Is it going to be mom or is it going to be dad? Should we split it? How much is it worth? That’s really what it comes down to. Should I have to go out and buy a new box spring and mattress for my son? Should I take the one that he has and maybe make his dad purchase it?
So, start there. Make major lists of the furniture, the artwork, the jewelry, the appliances, automobiles. Don’t forget the garage or any storage area. Take a look at the safe deposit box. What kind of valuables to you have stored?
Once they’ve got that taken care of, then start going after the assets. Make a list of the IRAs, the 401Ks, the stocks, the retirement, the pensions. How much do the two of you earn? You need to know this. Start collecting some paychecks. Start looking for some 401K statements.
Finally, think about a budget. What about a household budget? What does it cost to run this household?
Why do I point that out? Because you’re going to need to know if you intend to stay in that house, how much is it going to cost you or, if you intend to move, how much is it going to cost you to move? Where are you going to get the cash to do it? So start keeping track of the cash you spend on a daily basis so that you’ll be able to ascertain what your monthly expenses are going to be.
Knowledge of your household expenses is really beginning…really important, I should say…at the beginning of your case, especially if temporary support is an issue.
For example, say I’m divorcing my husband. He makes quite a bit more money than I do. After I sit down and do my household expenses, I realize that my income alone will not support maintaining myself and my children. I’m a very good candidate for spousal maintenance. The fact that I’ve put together an expense and a budget sheet is going to help the court in awarding me that spousal maintenance.
So it’s also important at the beginning of the case, but it’s important at the end of the case during a settlement when I need to make a realistic appraisal of my ability to afford everything after the divorce. So the key is to establish that budget and those expenses early on.