In the midst of Covid-19, many people feel “stuck” – stuck at home with their spouse or partner but wanting to end the relationship. With the Courts temporarily closed, people may feel there is “nowhere to go”. There are ways in which you can start the process of divorce without court, and find a way to become “unstuck”. You can start preparing for divorce or other family law process without going to Court, and using the time you do have to make preparations for moving forward. How do you prepare?
- Research the various legal processes available to you – traditional litigation, Mediation, and Collaborative Law are a good start. The Levitt Law Group provides all of these services, but the processes are different, and it is helpful to educate yourself as best you can about the different legal approaches. While the differences may not always be clear, at least you are informed that there are different processes and that you have a choice so that when you consult an attorney you can ask questions and get a more complete description of these approaches and what might work best for you and your family.
- Start gathering financial documents and scanning or making copies: three years of tax returns, most recent statements of bank and retirement accounts and pension plans, information regarding health and life insurance, copies of estate planning documents, mortgage statements and other statements of any debts that you have such as auto loans and credit cards, copies of partnership and other entity agreements, recent paystub and last paystub of the prior tax year, if self employed year to date profit/loss statement, marriage certificate, prior divorce or other legal agreements, information regarding stock options, restricted stock units, and vesting schedules, and anything else you can think of that might be relevant.
- Make a list of your assets and liabilities, including property addresses if your assets include real estate, and institution names and account numbers for assets like bank accounts, investment, retirement, and the like. Make sure that you include assets and liabilities in your name individually, in your spouse or partner’s name individually, and joint assets and liabilities as well. If you have assets or liabilities with third parties such as family and/or children, list those too. If you do not have a financial planner, consider talking with one who can help you to review your current budget and how that might change.
- Identify children’s assets such as 529 plans and accounts you have with your children.
- Think about a parenting plan and what that might look like in the future when you are no longer together. No decisions need to be made, but it can be helpful to at least envision the future.
You can start now – Contact an attorney and have a consult, you don’t have to wait for the courts to fully reopen. A lot of the preparation for and implementation of divorce can be done out of court, including hiring counsel to provide you with legal advice to move your case forward.
All of these suggestions can feel scary – you don’t have to do them all at once. They are merely tools to help you manage a difficult situation by being proactive, and to let you know that you do have options. You can move forward now with your divorce or other family law conflict -while these are not legal terms of art, in fact, you are not “stuck”, and can become “unstuck”. Give it a try.
Copyright 2020, Karen J. Levitt. All rights reserved.