Legal Blogs

The 5 Important Things To Do Before Filing for Divorce in California

The 5 Important Things To Do Before Filing for Divorce in California

  1. Understand your marital estate (all your stuff). The 5 Important Things To Do Before Filing for Divorce in CaliforniaBefore consulting with a divorce lawyer, one of the most important things you can do is to understand the extent of your marital estate. The marital estate is typically composed of the assets and debts you and your spouse have acquired during marriage. In California, with a few exceptions, assets and debts acquired during marriage are community property and are typically divided equally between the parties at the time of divorce.   As such, it is important to itemize the property belonging to the marriage, as well as community debts that need to be addressed in the course of the divorce. It is equally important to identify any separate property or debt that was acquired by either party before marriage as well as any property that was gifted or inherited by either spouse during the marriage. Separate property assets and debts can have an impact in the final resolution of your divorce, support and marital estate division.
  2. Gather important financial documents. Often during the marriage one spouse is primarily responsible for maintaining important financial documents such as, deeds to community real property, tax returns, loan documents, brokerage and retirement accounts and similar financial information. It is important that you have access to, and preferably copies of this information before filing for a divorce.   Obtaining copies of monthly income (pay stub) available to the community and your monthly living expense will also assist you in evaluating your future financial needs. Find out as much as you can about your total net worth before your first meeting with a divorce lawyer as well.
  3. Custody considerations. If the custody of minor children is an issue in your divorce, keep track of your daily involvement with the children and your spouse’s involvement before you separate. Are you the primary care-giver? What does your daily routine, interaction and care of the children include? What is the other parent’s daily involvement in the children’s lives? Which parent takes the children to doctor and dental appointments? Make a list of your children’s health-care providers, any medications they take, special needs accommodations, as well as the name of their schools and teachers. Keeping notes about important or key events even before you file for divorce will help refresh your recollection when you prepare your court documents regarding custody of the minor children or if you have to testify in court about your relationship and involvement with the children.
  4. Avoid social media posting that can haunt you during the divorce process.   This is especially important if you have minor children and when custody of the children is an issue. Social media posts about “partying” or about the other “bad parent” could come back to haunt you during a custody evaluation or when parenting issues are discussed with the court. Remember that postings on social media are “discoverable” evidence in court and, should you delete compromising posts, it could be considered destruction of evidence with significant ramifications. It is best to keep your intentions about terminating your marriage between you and your spouse, and keep any compromising activities private and out of the social media. It is also in your minor children’s best interest that your marital break-up not be publicized on social media and that you do not make disparaging remarks about the other parent, even if you believe the remarks to be true.
  5. Plan ahead financially. Once you make your spouse aware that you plan to file for a divorce, he or she may cut you off financially. Plan ahead for this possibility. If your spouse leaves the family home, will you have sufficient funds to meet the financial obligations associated with the mortgage or rent and utilities until you can get a court order for support? Should you set up a separate bank account before you file for a divorce? These are legitimate concerns when contemplating a divorce. It is important to remember that income earned during marriage, even if it is earned by only one spouse, it is usually considered community income. Therefore, one-half of income belongs to each spouse. Consider whether you can transfer up to one-half of the funds in the community accounts into a separate banking account in your name alone. You cannot however, deplete the entire account in order to have sufficient funds to live on after you separate from your spouse. Remember that you will be required to account for the funds you take from community accounts after the divorce is file. California requires full disclosure of all assets and debts owned jointly by the community as well as separate property assets and debts.

What to look for in a divorce lawyer. Divorce is one of the most life altering events that can happen to an individual. You want a lawyer by your side that knows and understands the law and also understands your individual needs. This is especially important when children are involved. The lawyers at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP are compassionate, knowledgeable and thoughtful in their approach to assisting each client with the unique facts of their divorce. Call us today at 714-505-3000 for information about how we can help you. For more information on divorce and family law issues, visit the informative Brown & Charbonneau, LLP website at https://www.bc-llp.com/divorce-attorneys/