Here’s a question: Do you know you and your spouse’s net worth? How close are you to retirement? Do you have a dream job or career that you’d love to transition into, perhaps something that your spouse has been opposed to? Do you fear that you’ll never be able to make it happen?
Perhaps you’re wondering how you will afford the legal fees and costs of a divorce, or whether, for the sake of your children, you can afford to keep the home where your family lives.
Answering these questions up front, before you go into the battle, will save you thousands in attorneys fees and help you to think clearly when solving problems. Moreover, those who are well organized and prepared tend to be more confident in court. Imagine that you are appearing in court with all your information at your fingertips, while your opposition flounders and guesses.
When my now ex-wife made the announcement that she was leaving 10 years ago, my first stop was to the family filing cabinet, and my second stop to the local Kinkos. I secured copies of these important documents:
All refinancing documents and closing papers for the homes that she and I had owned, including the one we were living in;
Fliers for the sale of those homes;
Most recent pay stubs;
Our last 3 years of income tax returns;
The most recent deed and mortgage statements for our home;
The most recent credit card and loan statements;
The latest statements for my 401(k) plan (I did not have an IRA)
Ownership and valuations of stock I owned in the firm I was then working for
6 months of checking and saving account statements;
Car payment records and other secured debt
Life insurance documents.
This is only a partial list. The court form titled FL-142, lists the documents you should attach when you are doing your financial disclosures, and can be used as a worksheet for this planning.
Plotting out my estate helped me greatly when my ex and I sat down for divorce mediation. You see, at the time of our marriage I already owned a home with very significant equity. I was entitled to reimbursement for that value under Family Code section 2640. Yet the mediator was ready to divide our home equity 50-50 between the parties. I said, “nay, nay,” and asserted my right to reimbursed for my separate contribution to the equity in our home.
Planning ahead can help you to be quick on your feet when an issue like this comes up. So I advise putting all assets and debts on a spreadsheet, and knowing what’s in the estate, and its value, before initiating proceedings. Click here to get a free asset and debt spreadsheet template. Look at some of the comparable sales in your neighborhood or go on www.zillow.com to get a rough estimate of your home’s value (you’ll eventually need a professional appraisal if the issue comes up in court, but this will give you an idea). Go to www.kbb.com to evaluate your cars.
Armed with this information, you’ll know what’s available to solve important problems, such as whether you can buy your spouse’s interest in the family home, or how to achieve your retirement goals.
I certainly wish you success and happiness along the journey you are taking. There’s going to be some hard work involved, but with good planning, your work will definitely pay off!
Very truly yours,
Thomas D. Ferreira, Esq.