It's over. You can't take it anymore. Maybe it is an abusive relationship. Maybe you have finally found proof that your spouse is cheating. Maybe you have just come to the realization that you are not happy and cannot be happy in this relationship. Whatever the reason, you have decided that divorce is definitely in your future. How do you plan for it? Here are some concrete steps you can take to start building your case and defending yourself.
- Run a copy of your credit report: Often-times when a person gets divorced, he/she discovers that his/her spouse has used that person’s name (and good credit) to secure loans, credit cards, etc. without that person’s knowledge. It is much better to find out about any unknown debts earlier rather than later. You can easily get a copy of your credit report for free off of the internet. Be sure you request that your report include addresses of all creditors. You may also consider signing up for a credit fraud protection service to alert you to activity on your credit report.
- Open a PO Box and Separate Email Address: Control of information during divorce litigation is critical. If your spouse is able to intercept your mail, it will not only hinder your ability to gather information your lawyer needs, it may interfere with your lawyer’s ability to communicate with you. Setting up a separate P.O. Box and having your mail forwarded will save you a great deal of heartache. If you share an email address with your spouse, get your own. There are many free services such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc. Do not plan on using your work email. Legally, your employer controls that email and may be subject to a subpoena from your spouse's attorney where your ex can then get access to all of your work emails.
- Change all passwords: Ever increasingly we find ourselves conducting our personal business on the internet. Emails are exchanged. Bills are paid. Accounts are managed. To properly protect yourself, as soon as you know you will be filing for divorce, change every one of your passwords to something that your spouse will not be able to guess. If you are one of those people that only uses 2-3 passwords for everything, think of something new; preferably ones that include random letters and numbers. Using password locker software such as Lastpass or 1Password is also useful.
- Start carrying a calendar: I have found that slender week-at-glance type calendars work well. These calendars generally give you ample room to write and keep track of visits you or your spouse have with your child(ren), incidents between you and your spouse, appointments with your lawyer, court dates, etc. If you use a smartphone, you can also use the calendar/notes app on the phone; however, be aware if you back up your phone "to the cloud" that if you share a user account with your spouse, he/she may be able to access your notes.
These are just a few ideas to think of in planning your divorce case. We will continue this discussion in a future post.
- Change your beneficiaries: Let me be clear, if your divorce is filed and a court has entered a "status quo" order, you may be prohibited from changing any beneficiaries. However, nothing prevents you from changing them before you file for divorce unless your HR department or agent refuses to let you make these changes. You should also review your will to ensure that your estate goes to your intended beneficiaries. If you do not have a will, you should get at least a simple will. If you die without a will before the divorce is final, your spouse will probably inherit the lion’s share of your estate.
Photo courtesy of thebarrowboy
Labels: planning, pre-divorce, security