Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and in the context of divorce, this adage rings true. If you are considering separating from your spouse and filing for divorce, it is important that you prepare for both the legal process and the fact that you and your spouse will soon be living apart. From budgeting to finding emotional support, a pre-separation checklist should rival the importance, if not the thickness, of a commercial airliner takeoff manual. However, if you only have the time or the energy for a few pre-separation preparations, then here are two actions that all spouses should consider before separating from their spouse:

  1. Equally Divide Joint Bank Accounts: Many married couples share one or two joint bank accounts that comprise the entirety of their savings. Especially in this situation, it is critical to equally divide bank accounts prior to separating and filing for divorce. Without doing so, a spouse risks losing access to his or her only source of liquid assets should the other spouse drain the entirety of those accounts out of fear or spite. And while this situation may be remedied through litigation in court, the process to do so can take months or longer and can leave a spouse without the funds necessary to afford an attorney.
  2. Fairly Divide All Personal Property: If you are the spouse relocating to a new residence, assume that all belongings you leave behind in the marital residence will never be seen again. This is because courts have a difficult time making rulings on personal property issues in the process of litigation. Therefore, it is important that you secure all personal property and belongings that you would like from the marital residence before you leave. A good rule of thumb is that you may take half of the items (or equivalent value) acquired during marriage and all of the personal property that you brought into the marriage. If time or safety prevents you from doing so before you leave, then take date-stamped pictures of all items in the home that you believe have any value, and make an itemized, room-by-room list of all personal property in the home on the day you leave.

A good pre-separation checklist will have twenty items on it, not two, but every preparation you take counts. Our legal team at Koenig|Dunne has decades of experience advising clients on how to prepare for separation and divorce. Contact us today to learn more.

David Pontier