Even if you are planning to file an uncontested divorce, there are still many important actions that you may need to take to protect yourself. Most spouses handle news of an uncontested divorce well. However, others sometimes go a spending spree, hide documents, or empty joint bank accounts. If you can protect your assets, documents and information beforehand, you will be in a much stronger position to negotiate an uncontested divorce.
Therefore, for your protection, below are some specific financial tips to consider before and during a Georgia uncontested divorce:
1. Documents and Valuables.
Move your documents, record, other papers, and valuables such as jewelry, artwork, firearms, cash, and heirlooms somewhere other than your own house. Setting up safe deposit boxes and new storage locations can be a valuable time investment. You can expect that your children’s mother will be going through your desk, briefcase, automobile, telephone records, bills, and computer, looking for financial information and other evidence to use against you. Anything with significant or sentimental value to you ought to be secured from your children’s mother. You are not trying to hide things, but you don’t want to come home from work and find that your valuables have been sold at a yard sale.
Note: as of 2010, O.C.G.A. § 19-5-7 states that after a petition for divorce is filed, property transfer from the marital party to another party is prohibited except for bona-fide debt payments. Be careful not to gift marital property to other parties.
Make a list of everything in the house. Taking dated pictures or a video of the entire household is an easy way to go about this. Include furniture, furnishings, appliances, clothing, jewelry, and all other valuables. If something turns up missing, you’ll have the evidence to prove it.
3. Bank Accounts.
Joint bank accounts do not need to be closed or distributed with the permission of both parties, so go to the bank and divide the joint bank accounts in half, depositing your half in your own name. Alternatively, you can put everything in your name, and while this strategy will sometimes make a judge angry with you, it is often easier to give money in the end than to get it back from the start. If you’re the main breadwinner, putting your children and their mother out in the cold without some money to get by on will only aggravate the judge (who will make you pay anyway). Make arrangements so that bills will be covered, and let your children’s mother know about what arrangements you’ve made after you’ve made them.
Call your broker and divide any stock, bonds or mutual funds that are held jointly with your children’s mother. While this is not a taxable event, you will have to take future taxes into account if you want to be equitable. Therefore, ask your broker to make sure the tax basis is equalized as well.
5. Credit Cards.
You do not want to wake up one morning and discover that your children’s mother has charged $5,000 on your joint credit card on a spending spree. You may be responsible for paying part or all of that $5,000. Close all joint credit or loan accounts and notify the banks, charge cards, and others by a certified, return receipt letter that you are no longer responsible for the expenses of your children’s mother. You may ask the company to reopen an account in your own name. Directly after you make these changes, make sure your children’s mother know so she is not caught by surprise when the credit card no longer works. If she’s already started her spending spree, report the card as stolen. Charged fees can be disputed with the company.
If you cover your spouse or children on your insurance, do not drop them from the policy until the divorce is final. After all, you are most likely responsible for their medical bills until then anyway. Even after the divorce, the employed spouse may want to keep the spouse and children covered. If you are paying child support, a large, unexpected medical expense for the child could be assessed against the noncustodial parent as additional child support. The same could happen with alimony and an ex-spouse. Federal law allows most employees to cover their spouses for up to thirty six months after a divorce for a small additional premium; however, the employer must be notified prior to the final divorce decree.
Two cannot live as cheaply as one, especially if they are separated and trying to maintain two households. It is time to cut costs as much as possible. Cancel and sell anything you do not need like extra telephone lines, unwanted property, or cable television. However, do not cut off the utilities on your children and their mother without giving them plenty of notice. Make sure you can prove this notice to the court because leaving your children and their mother home without heat or light in December seldom sits well with the judge.
Retirement funds acquired during a marriage are marital assets that can be divided by the divorce court, so chances are that your wife will share in anything you contribute now to your pension plan at work or your Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Fill out the paperwork to have your employer stop your contributions to your 401(k) account or other pension plan. If you don’t want your spouse acquiring part of your IRA or pension contribution, don’t make any payments to either of these accounts for usually the duration of a year.
9. Get an Experienced Georgia Uncontested Divorce Lawyer.
Find a good family lawyer and set up an appointment right away. Some lawyers charge for an initial consultation and some do not, so try to search for a lawyer that meets your financial needs. In the initial meeting, you will be able assess the lawyer and acquire good advice and strategy for your particular facts and circumstance. The attorney will discuss costs with you during the initial consultation, but be aware that any estimate by an attorney is subject to change depending on the divorce proceedings. Your attorney will also advise you about other matters you will need to consider during this change in your life, such as executing a new will and changing powers of attorney.
If you are facing an uncontested divorce in Georgia, call us at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced and trusted Georgia divorce and family law attorneys today. We offer free consultations to qualifying potential clients. Contact >