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Five Things You Can Do Right Now to Prepare for a New Year’s Divorce

The holidays are well-known for putting extra pressure on relationships. The stress of travel, additional expenses, and spending time with family you may not like can make your spouse’s ordinary foibles that much harder to handle. If your relationship is already rocky, a single bad holiday season can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

If the past holiday season showed you that it’s time for your marriage to end, you’re not alone. The first Monday of January is known as Divorce Day for a reason. As you get ready to file for divorce and start the new year fresh, here’s how you can prepare to make your New Year’s divorce a little smoother.

1. Collect Critical Financial Documents

One of the most complex elements of most divorces is dividing marital assets between spouses. In California, all joint property is supposed to be divided equally, making things particularly complicated for high-net-worth couples. That’s why one of the best things you can do to prepare for a divorce is to start collecting financial documents now.

You’ll need paperwork such as:

  • Deeds and mortgage information for any real estate you own
  • Deeds and loan information for vehicles and other real property
  • Statements from both your joint and separate bank and investment accounts.
  • At least two years’ worth of tax returns
  • Pay stubs for the past twelve months
  • Life insurance policy information
  • Health insurance policy information

These documents will be used to determine your current financial status. The sooner you gather them, the sooner you’ll identify any information that’s missing or requires extra work to find. That can help you avoid unnecessary delays down the road.

2. Build a Budget

One of the most overlooked changes caused by divorce is the adjustment to your household income. Even if your spouse was the homemaker and didn’t bring in income, your monthly budget will need to change during and after your divorce. The difference in taxes alone can significantly impact your take-home salary and monthly spending. As such, preparing a new budget is an essential part of preparing for a divorce.

Your new budget will need to account for handling things on your own, like:

  • Rent or a mortgage payment
  • Food
  • Phone, internet, and utility bills
  • Insurance premiums
  • Car payments, maintenance, and gas
  • Retirement savings
  • Discretionary spending

If you have children, you should also include all the myriad expenses they inevitably create. A good rule of thumb for your entire budget is to underestimate your income and overestimate how much things will cost when living separately. That way, you won’t be caught by surprise after filing when your expenses go up, and your household income goes down.

3. Prepare Your Finances

Once a divorce has begun in California, you cannot perform specific financial actions like transferring money from joint accounts into separate accounts. The moment you file for divorce, both you and your spouse are bound by “automatic temporary restraining orders,” or ATROs, which are intended to keep your financial situation stable during the divorce. However, if your spouse is usually in charge of your finances, this can leave you without an easy way to access necessary funds. 

You can prepare for this before filing by transferring a small amount of funds to a separate account over which you have sole control. Try to have funds to cover one to two months of expenses in this account, just in case your spouse tries to cut you off from your joint accounts. This is permitted under California divorce law as long as it occurs before filing for divorce and you provide documentation about the account with the rest of your asset disclosures. 

4. Create Your Own Accounts

Beyond simple financial accounts, it is worthwhile to consider other accounts that you may need to change or update. If you and your spouse share joint email, streaming, or cloud accounts, it is time to get new ones for yourself. It is much easier to make a new Netflix account than try to divide an old one. 

Similarly, updating any passwords you may have shared with your spouse is worthwhile. Get new login credentials for accounts in your name that your spouse may have learned to prevent them from snooping. It’s helpful to update your PIN and computer passwords, too. 

These updates are invaluable for protecting your privacy and cutting off connections to your spouse. If you know you want your marriage to end, changing non-financial passwords is an easy and impactful way to start making changes before you file for divorce.

5. Prepare Your Loved Ones

A divorce that apparently comes out of nowhere can be stressful for your loved ones. A lack of preparation can also make it harder for them to support you if you need help. If you’re getting ready to file, let a few trusted family or friends know what you’re planning and why. They will be able to help you field questions from other people in your life and provide a shoulder to lean on should things get complicated.

Expert Legal Representation for California Divorce in 2023

The new year is a perfect time to start fresh. You can get ready for your new year’s divorce today by preparing your finances, budget, and loved ones today. If you have questions about how to prepare for a divorce in California, the skilled attorneys at Kaspar & Lugay, LLP, can answer them. We are dedicated to handling the difficult aspects of your divorce so you can focus on moving on with your life. Schedule your consultation today to discover how we will put our decades of experience to work representing you in your divorce.