Many people come to the Burch Shepard Family Law Group afraid of losing everything during their divorce. In California, however, the courts split debts and assets 50/50, so you should never leave a divorce with nothing.
Nevertheless, you should still take steps to protect any assets you do have during divorce, particularly if you have separate property. Business Insider shared some recommendations, and we’ve compiled the highlights below:
Identify What’s Yours
Before filing for divorce – or as soon as you receive divorce papers – take a moment to identify your assets and determine what belongs to you, what belongs to your spouse, and what belongs to the marital estate.
In California, property you acquired before the marriage is yours to keep, as are most gifts and inheritance you receive. Any property you acquire after filing or being served with divorce papers belongs to you, as well.
Understanding your financial situation will help you protect yourself during the division of debts and assets.
Make sure you have copies of all your financial statements, including tax documents and bank account information. Do not rely on electronic copies because your spouse may change the password or otherwise prevent you from accessing them.
Keep a copy of each document for yourself and make a copy for your lawyer, too.
Set Up an Account in Your Name
During your divorce, you will need money to pay your living expenses and attorney’s fees. Stop putting your paycheck into your joint account and set up an account in your name instead. If you are not working or your spouse makes significantly more money than you, you can also transfer some funds from your joint account to your individual account.
Only take what you need and do not “clean out” the joint account. Keeping some of your assets “liquid” can help you get through divorce proceedings, especially if your spouse tries to freeze joint accounts or otherwise control your finances.
If you cannot get the money you need from the joint account, you can also ask the court for an emergency hearing and request temporary alimony or child support. This step can be valuable for stay-at-home parents who are trying to leave a marriage without destroying their personal finances.
Think About What You Want – and Need – Moving Forward
Each person has different wants and needs during a divorce. For example, a business owner may want nothing more than to preserve their business, and a stay-at-home parent may want to secure spousal support.
You may not only want to leave your marriage and start a new life with as little conflict as possible but also need your half of the marital estate to survive post-divorce.
Once you understand your wants and needs, you will be better able to fight for what matters – and leave everything else alone. If your end goal is to get divorced and finally move overseas, for instance, you will not want to spend time fighting over a sofa you cannot take with you – even if the sofa is valuable.
Ask for Help
The best way to protect your property during a divorce is to compile a team of professionals who can help you do just that. In addition to hiring an attorney, speak to a financial adviser about your short-term and long-term financial goals.
If you need 5 years of spousal support to help you get back on your feet after divorce, your financial adviser will tell you, and your attorney will do everything they can to help you get it.
Your lawyer can also help you identify and protect separate property and build your case strategy around the priorities you have identified. If you own a business with your spouse, for instance, you may plan to sacrifice some of your marital property so you can buy them out of the business.
No matter your goals, our team at the Burch Shepard Family Law Group can help. We have more than 100 years of collective legal experience, and many of us are Board Certified in family law by the State Bar of California.
We are committed to our clients and dedicated to obtaining real results, so do not hesitate to call us at (949) 565-4158 or contact us online for a complimentary case review.