4. Research Housing - Except in rare circumstances, you should not plan to move out of your home - if you do, your budget will double, at least, you will lose parenting time with your children, and you cannot control what happens to your belongings, or your children, that you left behind. However, you should start researching housing options now. Perhaps you will remain in the home but will refinance - what do you need to do so? Perhaps you will sell the home - who will you use, and will you make a profit? Perhaps you want to rent a home in your children's school district - so get on the web and start searching for a home.
5. Start a Separate Bank Account - Separate accounts are a delicate issue. You should not tell your spouse that you are opening a separate account, but you should also not expect to keep it a secret throughout your divorce. You will be required to disclose it. But, if you open an account and start putting money in it too soon, you send a giant red flag with the letters D-I-V-O-R-C-E waving at your spouse. Clients often ask us, when should I open the account, and how much should I put in it? Generally, and subject to the facts in your marriage, you should open the account before you file and deposit about one-half to enough to pay the family bills into the account a day before or, ideally, immediately before filing. You are not setting this money aside so that you can hide it or keep it - you are setting it aside so that it is protected and available to pay marital expenses so that your spouse does not pocket it all.
6. Check Your Credit - You can run a free credit report annually online. Look for any missed or late payments, as these are often a sign that your spouse, who was supposed to be paying the bills, deposited your paycheck somewhere else. Also look for debts in your name that you were unaware of, such as credit cards that are issued jointly to husbands and wives. Keep this report with your financial records (more on that above) for your attorney. Beware, however, that you cannot run your spouse's report without his or her express permission - it is a federal crime if you run the report without it.
7. Spend Time Parenting - If you have children, enjoy this holiday season with them doing normal things you would do if divorce were not on the horizon. Go sledding. Make dinner. Watch movies and play video games, etc. Keep track of what you do and when. This will have many benefits - first and foremost, it's time with your children; in addition, you have a record of the everyday things you do with them, which the judge will consider when issuing a decision for child custody and parenting time if you and your spouse cannot agree. So, get in the habit of keeping a journal now. It does not have to be like your daughter's diary, which you update everyday with pages and pages of notes. But it should include the date, place, event and people who were present. Some client even use a calendar app to type their notes.
more to come in Part 3...