By: Stephen J. Plog
Divorce is nothing to be entered into lightly. It takes a lot of thought, as well as emotional preparation. As with anything else important in life, the divorce process can also entail a fair amount of strategy and planning. In Part 1 of this post, I touched upon a couple of topics, documentation and protection of passwords, tied into things you might do as part of preparation for your Colorado divorce. In this Part 2, I will discuss additional tips to consider when contemplating or facing a divorce.
SOCIAL MEDIA: In this day and age of digital communication and persona, it’s not uncommon for people going through a divorce or custody case to have one form of social media page or another, whether Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or others I’m probably too old or un-hip to be aware of. The moment you start thinking about divorce, particularly if you have children, you should take an inventory of your on-line presence and clean up anything that might have a chance of hurting you in court. Pursuant to Colorado Rules of Evidence, Rule 801, your statements can be used against you by your spouse in court. This includes things you post on the internet. I have dealt with an array of cases over the years in which things such as Facebook pages have become an issue, and evidence. Bashing your spouse on line or sharing your thoughts about him or her as a parent can potentially damage your custody case. Pictures of wild partying can, too. Likewise, sharing your thoughts or plans related to finances, or perhaps your spending habits, could also lead to negative inferences being drawn by a court regarding your motivations on certain issues. Moreover, sharing your every thought on line might alert your spouse as to your strategy or wishes, thereby giving him or her an advantage when it comes to court or negotiations. To be safe, take down any and all posts related to divorce, custody, or any behaviors that could be construed as negative. Additionally, you should block your spouse from all accounts or pages. In fact, you should make all pages, such as Facebook, private, at least for the time being, and only allow those in who you can trust with 100% certainly. As they say in the movies, “anything you say can, and will be used against you.” On the flip side of this topic, if you believe your spouse’s social media pages have anything of value on them, copy away, and preserve those records (presuming you have legal access to them). They might come in handy for both you and your divorce attorney.
STAY IN THE HOME: Too many times I have gotten calls from people at the outset of a divorce either asking whether it’s okay for them to just move out of the house or telling me that they had just recently left because their spouse had filed a case. Firstly, just because a divorce is filed, you do not need to move out. That being said, if there is domestic violence or fear of violence, go. Safety always trumps strategy. If not, it is generally optimal to stay at least until some sort of formal, temporary agreement, is in place regarding visitation with the children. If you leave the home, also leaving your children, and are then served with divorce papers, you may be precluded not only from returning, but also may be kept from seeing your children as much as you may want or are able. Until court orders are entered, there are no rules as to custody or visitation. In an ugly case one spouse might limit the other from being able to see the kids and courts are not going to find not seeing your children to be an emergency. Time with the kids can affect both your time with them and finances. Being in the same home can also have an impact related to other financial duties, such as alimony (maintenance). If you are the higher earner and are in the same home, your potential duty to pay maintenance will likely not start ticking until you leave. Additionally, funding two homes is more expensive than funding one. In some instances, prior to a case being filed, I have even suggested that people who have left move back in. Again, safety is key. If there is substance abuse and safety issues tied into your children, you should leave, with them. If not, stay as long as you can stand it. Once the divorce process starts, your Broomfield divorce attorney will help you sort through the temporary issues that may arise, whether related to finances or custody, and can help you formulate either an amicable or court impose exit strategy. Your patience may be tested, but in the end it will pay off.
PROTECT YOUR FINANCES: In most families, spouses share at least one bank account. Usually this is a joint checking account into which one or both deposit their pay checks. Sometimes, they also share a joint savings account. Unfortunately, I have seen instances in which one spouse decides they are just going to take all of the money out of the accounts. Of course this can be financially crippling to anyone. Even those with high incomes may still not have access to funds beyond those in the joint accounts. I’ve seen big earners temporarily left with nothing to work with to pay bills or meet their needs. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to protect your self as you prepare to file, or if you know a divorce is coming. If your pay check is deposited into a joint account, you should redirect it to an account solely in your name. There is nothing wrong with doing this and keeping your funds separate doesn’t preclude you from still contributing to the family finances, or providing assistance to your spouse if he or she doesn’t work. It just protects you and prevents your spouse taking your working capital. Additionally, if you have the slightest inkling that your spouse would deplete the joint accounts, such as a saving account, you should consider taking half out for yourself. If you feel the need to do so you should preserve those funds, as opposed to squandering them. This doesn’t mean you cannot use funds for financial necessities. Just be cautious and make sure you keep an accounting. Funds in any joint account will be considered marital in nature and marital property are generally going to be divided equally. Furthermore, courts can will hold people accountable for what they do with marital funds, even during the time periods leading up to the divorce. This holds true for your spouse who depletes any account. Ultimate disposition of bank or other accounts funds will ultimately be resolved either via negotiations or at your final divorce hearing. Protecting those funds until that time is the smart move to make.
When starting Part 1 of this post, I intended to do a quick check list of various tips. While writing both parts I realized my years of experience dealing with Colorado family law cases gives me more to say than can be conveyed in a quick, bullet point list. With more planning tips to discuss, I’ve now determined there will be a Part 3. If you are contemplating starting a divorce or custody case, contact the family law attorneys at Plog & Stein.