Invariably one of the first questions we are asked in an initial consultation by potential clients seriously considering divorce is “how do I plan for divorce?” Whether you develop an exit strategy before you tell your spouse that you want a divorce greatly depends on the dynamics of your marriage. If you trust your spouse to be fair and believe you will be able to end your marriage on relatively amicable terms, an exit strategy is less important. However, if there are serious trust issues between you and/or you expect a “battle royal” upon divorce then having a plan in place will keep you ahead of the game once attorneys get involved. As soon as you start thinking about divorce take an inventory of your emotions and your finances by taking the following steps: 1. Protect your Property: If you walked down the aisle without a prenuptial agreement, your pre-marriage separate property may be at risk, especially if you have commingled it in any way. Long before you divorce you need to make sure that title in your pre-marriage property remains in your name. If not, you should request that your spouse sign the property back over to you. Do not engage in fraud to obtain your spouse’s signature or the Court will refuse to enforce the transfer. Your spouse must voluntarily and knowingly execute the transfer. This applies only to property acquired prior to marriage. All property acquired during your marriage is presumed to be community property and a spouse claiming that the property is his separate property will have to provide a tracing of its separate property source. 1. Protect and Organize all Relevant or Sensitive Documentation: Account statements, tax returns, personal records, business records, ledgers, computer files, etc. 1. Do not tie up Capital: If you are thinking about divorce, now is not the time to purchase a new home or make any other large purchases. It is much simpler to divorce if you are liquid. 2. Protect your Business: If you own a business you should make sure that your buy-sell agreement is signed by all principals and their spouses. When someone leaves the business or there is a divorce, the shares of the person no longer involved in the business must be sold back to the business according to the agreement. Do not engage in a contrived agreement created solely to place a low value on the business interest belonging to a soon to be ex-spouse as such an agreement will not be honored by the Court. Do what you can to defer plans of business expansion until after the divorce has been finalized. 1. Find a Good Therapist: Even if you do not believe that couples therapy will be useful to you and your spouse, you should, at the very least, find a therapist for yourself. A therapist will help you uncover your true feelings about your marriage. A therapist will help you figure out how to tell your spouse that you want a divorce in an effective manner. A therapist will help you through the emotionally devastating aspects of the divorce process itself, including how you may protect your children’s emotions during this family crisis. A therapist will help you develop coping mechanisms for you and your children. Divorce is like a death for both spouses. You will mourn the loss of your marriage even if you are the spouse that wants the divorce. Being able to discuss your feelings about your divorce with a licensed professional will be extremely therapeutic for you as you go through one of the most difficult aspects of the human experience. 1. Finish Education or Professional Training: While some attorneys may recommend that a dependent spouse not obtain skills necessary to support himself or herself, we believe that is a mistake. Alimony in Nevada is a crap-shoot at best. There is no bright line test and by not taking steps necessary to support yourself upon divorce, you are taking a financial risk. A court may not award enough alimony to adequately meet your needs. If your spouse is a homemaker, unemployed or working part-time, encourage them to enter the work force. Establish your spouse’s actual earnings now. You’ll save yourself expense in proving in the divorce that they can earn enough to meet their own needs. As soon as you decide that informing your spouse that you want a divorce is necessary, take the following steps: 1. Open a post office box; 2. Set up a private email address; 3. Obtain a new cell phone and service plan; 1. Open a personal bank account using your new mailing address; 1. Obtain a copy of your credit report; 1. Make copies of all important financial documents; 1. Apply for a credit card in your own name; 1. Take a detailed inventory of all personal property; 1. Close or place limits on all joint credit cards; 1. Freeze or close all joint cash accounts; As soon as you determine that physical separation is necessary, take the following steps: 1. Figure out an acceptable living arrangement: If you have children and you want custody, do not move out of the marital residence unless your living situation is dangerous. Judges do not like to displace children from their home. If your spouse refuses to move out of the house and you feel you cannot live under the same roof any longer, be certain to rent a suitable home for you and your children in which to live. 2. Determine an acceptable custody/visitation schedule: If you have children, begin with the custody schedule you want to end with. If you leave your home without your children, beware of establishing a status quo of not spending time with the children. Courts may confirm the custody/visitation status quo in final divorce determinations. 1. Stay out of TPO Court: Do not lose your temper. Do not react with rage, no matter how angry at your spouse. An applicant spouse who claims to be the victim of domestic violence may obtain substantial relief through a temporary protection order, including sole physical custody of the children, exclusive possession of the marital residence, temporary spousal support and child support. Often times the TPO court will grant the applicant an automatic 10-day protection order without an evidentiary hearing. In other words, a TPO is granted based solely on the application without giving the accused spouse an immediate opportunity to respond to false allegations.
Jessica H. Anderson
Divorce Attorney Reno, NV