Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Your Exit Plan

When “I do” becomes “I don’t want to anymore,” planning your exit from a marriage can save you headache and expense as you unwind your emotional and financial ties from your spouse.  Any plan should include the following:

1. Make sure that you are sure about ending the marriage and develop a support system.  Seek out counseling or therapy, consult with your minister, priest or rabbi, if appropriate, and if possible, have friends or family who will be there for you.

2. Know the income situation for both you and your spouse.  Gather pay stubs, tax returns, Forms W-2 showing yearly earnings and any other documents you can find regarding income.  Your attorney can help you decipher the information.  At this point in the proceedings you are gathering.

3. Figure out the debt: yours, mine and ours.  If you have no idea what you and your spouse owe, a great place to start is a credit report.  A credit report can be a road map to all of your debts.  You can obtain a limited version of a credit report at  If entries show up that are unfamiliar to you, you can always order and pay for a more detailed report.  Gather statements for all of the debts, including recent credit card statements, mortgage statements, tax bills and anything else indicating that either you or your spouse, or both of you together owe someone or something.  Again, your attorney will be able to assist you with determining how the debt will be treated in a divorce.  You are assembling the information so you have a clear picture of the liabilities.


4. What do you have?  In addition to getting a picture of your debts, you should also understand the assets.  Gather bank statements, investment statements, retirement account information, and any and all other documents you can get your hands on which indicate the value of your assets, your spouse’s assets and anything that you own jointly.

5. Safeguard your stuff.  Personal property, such as furniture, jewelry, heirlooms, knicknacks, keepsakes, clothing and artwork are an area of divorce that most courts just simply will not touch.  Many people begin a divorce action only to find out that their spouse destroyed or hid their personal property, whether or not it has actual monetary value.  Sometimes taking or disposing of photographs, mementos or other special items is a way to get revenge or simply get attention.  To protect yourself, you should safeguard anything that you cannot replace.

6. Find a good lawyer.  Your lawyer will sort through the information that you have gathered, and be able to obtain more on your behalf.  However, when you first consult with an attorney, the more data you can present, the more comprehensive advice you can receive.