How to Protect Yourself During Divorce

Even if you have been planning to divorce for some time, there are steps you should take before you file and during the divorce that will better prepare you and protect you, your children, your finances and your case once the divorce process begins.

Protecting Yourself

Do Not Sign Anything

If you know you are getting divorced or you and your spouse have discussed dissolving the marriage or even separating, do not sign anything until you talk to an attorney. People divorcing often sign papers believing it will cause less stress or that they can modify their written agreements at a later date. Unfortunately, if you sign something before the divorce about support or custody, there is a good chance a judge will enforce it, even temporarily.

Document Everything

The Court will consider the way the parties behaved prior to divorce as a basis for entering temporary orders including who pays what bills and who will see the children on which days. These temporary orders may become final orders and it is important to keep track of these things if you know you are headed for divorce. Keep a journal and record such things like who spends time with the children, who picks them up from school or takes them to appointment, who pays what bills, telephone calls, social media postings, etc. It is important to document everything no matter how big or small. Stick to the facts and keep it simple. Do not record conversations you had with your lawyer.

Call the Police if needed

Under no circumstances should you tolerate domestic violence. If there is an act of domestic violence, it is important that you call the police and make a report. You should also file for a restraining order immediately.

Protecting Your Children

Do not leave with your children

If you have lived in Nevada with your children for the last 6 months, the Nevada Court has jurisdiction over the children. Moving out of state and filing for divorce shortly thereafter will not change this fact, and most courts will and should not resolve custody issues if the children have not lived in that state at least 6 months before the filing of the divorce case. Taking the children out of state with the intent to move there may be considered parental kidnapping and the parent removing the children could be charged with a category D felony.  You can take your children on vacation but you cannot move unless your spouse approves the move in writing or the Court issues an order allowing you to move.

Do not move out of the marital residence

If you move out of the home and do not take the children with you, there is a good chance the Court will consider this fact in a custody determination. While living with your spouse knowing you are getting divorce is not ideal, if you leave the house and do not take your children with you, the Court will likely consider this as your desire to give up custody. Talk to your spouse about a time share or ways to make living under the same roof less stressful.

Stay involved with your children

If you have to move out or need to be away from your spouse, stay involved in your children’s lives. Participate in their schooling activities, medical appointments and extra-curricular activities. Just because you are divorcing your spouse does not mean you are divorcing your children. If you do not stay involved prior to the divorce, there is a good chance the Court will consider this at the time of awarding custody and day-to-day decision making for the children.

Protecting Your Finances

Run a credit report today

One of the biggest mistakes we see in divorce cases is people run up debt or force the other party to run up debt in anticipation of a divorce. Run your credit report immediately so that you can show the Court what debts were owed and how much was owed prior to the divorce.

Establish a bank account in your name only

While you need to continue to contribute to the community debt and community obligations, you should immediately begin to separate your finances. Do not continue to deposit money into joint bank accounts. Tell your spouse that from now on you pay half of the obligations but will be paying them from a separate account. Talk to your spouse about how to meet the community obligations and who will pay which bills and which bills will be paid jointly.

Stop contributing to your retirement accounts, 401Ks, pensions, etc….

Everything you contribute to these accounts is community property and your spouse is entitled to half. If you know you are getting divorced, stop contributing to these accounts. Otherwise, you are just giving your money away to your spouse. Use the money to pay down community debt or contribute for your children’s savings or college funds.

Protecting Your Possessions

Protect Your Personal Possessions

Move valuable documents such as your passport, social security cards, birth certificates and other identifying information outside of your home. Do not secure them in your car or office. Move them to a friend’s house or a safe deposit box.

Protect Your Property

Move records to a location outside of your family home

Catalog Marital Property

If possible, catalog marital property using a video camera and do so together with your spouse. If your spouse won’t agree to a video recording, do it without him or her and then make a duplicate tape for their records. Of course, your copy should be stored away from the home so you have a safe, solid record of your items in case anything “disappears.”
There are a few things to keep in mind when you record:

  • Make sure the date is made visible when the tape is viewed; hold up a newspaper or videotape the date on the TV at the beginning of the recording.
  • Move through the entire house and take out items from drawers, shelves, etc. and hold them up so they are visible to the camera.
  • If you have a safety deposit box or storage unit, be sure to catalog the items in the same way.

Secure Valuable Personal Property

You’d be surprised by how often photos and other items of personal value are destroyed by vengeful spouses. Valuable items, personal mementos, and other items that can’t be replaced (coin collections, firearms, etc.) should be taken out of the home and stored in a safe place. This does not apply to common possessions or community property; it only applies to personal property.

When possible, discuss personal items with your spouse first. It is acceptable for you to take what is yours and store the items in a safe spot. This way you don’t have to worry about your spouse taking items or claiming they “disappeared”.