Safety First: If you’re considering a divorce but you’re in a domestic violence situation, the first thing to do is to stay safe and get out. Don’t worry about other things- it’s not worth risking your life. But if you can safely do something, these are the 10 things you should do before you file a divorce in Texas.
- If you’re not the person who primarily pays the bills, look for all the necessary bills and find out how they get paid each month. If possible, get copies of the most recent statements for all the regular monthly bills. If you can’t do this, your attorney can request them after you file for divorce but if you already have them, it saves you time and money.
- Keep all copies of at least the last six months of monthly statements for every financial account, in either your name or your spouse’s name, all your investments, and all of your retirement accounts. It seems like a lot of paper, but your attorney will need to see them.
- If you’re going to request child support, get a copy of your spouse’s last three months of pay stubs. Also, your last two years of income tax returns with the W-2s.
- If you have photos on your cell phone that you want to use in court as evidence, then you need to get those photos downloaded someplace safe, where they won’t get lost or deleted. You should make printed copies of the photos as well because we can’t admit your phone into evidence. You can download those photos at Walgreens or go online to create those photos in preferably an 8×10 size or at least a 5×7.
- Compile all of those documents in an envelope or folder to keep them together. You might get a safe deposit box or ask a friend or relatives to keep your documents safe so that your spouse cannot hide them or destroy them once you file for a divorce.
- If you can safely talk to your spouse or if he/she is cooperative, go and have your joint bank accounts separated: one in your sole name, one in your spouse’s sole name, and preferably at different banks from where your joint bank account is. Then you need to decide how you and your spouse contribute to those monthly bills because you may want your paycheck direct deposited into your sole bank account. But you’ll need to transfer some money back into the joint account every month to make sure that the bills are covered. Talk about that with your spouse and make sure that you emphasize that this is temporary. It could change once you get to the final divorce.
- If you do not have a credit card in your own name, open a new credit card solely in your name and keep that account in your name only. You can use your spouse’s income to help you get credit.
- Create a budget for all of your monthly expenses as if you were living on your own without your spouse’s income. Figure out what you will need to make your house payment or rent for a place to live.
- Create a list of the major assets that you own with their value or worth.
- Make an appointment and talk to an attorney. Find out how your debts and assets should be divided in a fair division before you make anything into a written agreement and don’t sign any agreement until you talk to an attorney. Just say you want time to think about it. You need an attorney to tell you your rights and perhaps point out some problems that you had not considered. Your attorney will need a complete picture of all your debts and assets, income and expenses, in order to accurately advise you.
Laura D. Heard has practiced law
in San Antonio, Texas since 1987.
If you have questions, give me a
call. My staff and I look forward to
talking with you.
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