When filing for divorce there are things you should know before starting the process. Do you know what your mortgage payment and property taxes are? Do you know who your mortgage company is? These are just two of the many basic questions that are discussed during the initial interview process when you consult with an attorney in a divorce case. It is crucial to have a firm understanding of your finances, expenses, assets and debt when you are going to file for divorce. And yet, many spouses have little to no understanding of these things. It is very common for one spouse to be the “Captain of your financial ship.” A First Mate’s duties require them to have intimate knowledge of how the ship works, and be able to take over at a moment’s notice in the event of emergency or catastrophe. Similarly, spouses should also be completely familiar with the family’s finances and how expenses are paid and serviced.
Forget about filing for divorce or dissolution for a second. What would happen if the spouse who controls or “deals with” all of the finances suddenly became ill, incapacitated or died? Are you in the position to take over the bills, expenses and financial dealings? Or would you be adrift on a vast sea of paper? What you don’t know can, in fact, hurt you.
One of the most important documents you are required to complete and file with the Court when filing for divorce process is a Case Information Statement. That statement provides the Court and the parties’ attorneys with a detailed “financial snapshot” of your life. The more complete that statement is, with supporting documentation, the less work, time and expense will be involved in the court proceedings. If you would have “no idea” how to complete such a statement, now is the time to figure it out—even if you believe that you are in a stable and happy marriage.
Knowledge is power, and can mean the difference between sharing in a valuable asset or losing it altogether. Many types of employment, especially those in the public sector, carry distinct benefits which the spouses have a right to share in. You cannot share in it, however, if you don’t know about it. One excellent example of such a benefit is “Sick Day Pay”. Sick days accrue if they are not otherwise used during a calendar year. Those unused sick days are then “banked”. Upon retirement, he or she gets paid for the unused sick days, which can translate into tens of thousands of dollars.
“I don’t know” places people at a distinct disadvantage in the context of filing for divorce. Familiarize yourself with your bank accounts, spending patterns, life insurance policies and bills. Know where the important documents are, and make sure you have access to copies.
Every case is fact sensitive and there may be documentation that is pertinent to your circumstances. A full consultation with an experienced matrimonial/family law attorney (now!) will guide you as to what other documents may be necessary to address your case.