Too many people are not ready financially when their spouse decides to file for divorce. If you suspect that a divorce is in your future, it is important to take certain steps to protect yourself and your financial future. Not only do you want to be ready financially, you want to protect yourself in the event that your spouse decides to play nasty, underhanded games, such as run up (or cancel) credit cards, drain the financial accounts, or hide financial accounts.
1. Get to know your assets, liabilities and monthly living expenses. Many people have no idea of their monthly living expenses, debts or assets. While the reasons vary from household to household, many never see their spouse’s paycheck, their income tax return even though they may sign it, or know the status of the household debt. Worse, they have no idea of the assets, such as investment accounts. Be proactive. Search for records and know the financial condition of your family.
2. Consult with and get an attorney. An experienced Arizona divorce attorney can advise you of your legal rights and any potential complications prior to the divorce proceedings so that you are adequately prepared.
3. Have adequate cash on hand. All too often a spouse will go into a divorce without enough cash on hand to cover legal expenses, court fees, new housing, and routine bills. If divorce seems to be on the horizon, start saving as much cash as possible, as soon as possible, in order to cover these expenses. Also, start thinking about a budget. When you pursue a divorce, you and the other spouse will go from support one household with a certain amount of income to supporting two households with the same amount of income.
4. Become aware of the complete financial situation. Before the actual divorce takes place, it is very important to understand the financial landscape of your family. You will want to determine all of your outstanding debts, including all individual debts, as well as all joint debts. You will want to know and understand the complete financial picture of your family, which includes knowing all credit card accounts, home equity lines, student loans, and any business debts.
5. Retain adequate financial records. You will want to retain and maintain easy access to all pertinent financial documents, such as credit card statements, mortgage bills, mortgage agreements, insurance policies, previous tax returns, wills, retirement plan accounts, and paystubs.
6. Establish accounts in your own name. Once it becomes clear that divorce is imminent, you should take proactive measures to establish financial accounts in your name alone, including checking accounts, credit cards, savings accounts, and retirement accounts. You may also want to take steps necessary to secure individual car insurance.
7. Fix automatic deposits and payments. You should request that your employer re-route all of your payments into your individual accounts.
8. Ensure mortgage payments. If you have purchased a home with your spouse or you are both on the lease, you must determine who will continue making the mortgage or rent payments. Creditors, including mortgagors and landlords, expect to receive their payments regardless of your marital status or whether you are still living in the home. Even if you plan on moving out, you are still responsible for at least half of the mortgage or rent payments so it is advisable to come to some agreement early on regarding who will continue making the housing payments.
If you have further questions about how to prepare for a divorce, you can make an appointment for a consultation with Thomas A. Morton, a Phoenix family law and divorce lawyer.
In a letter dated April 29, 2013, the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education informed Thomas Morton that the Foundation had selected him as a 2013 recipient of the Top Pro Bono Attorneys in Arizona award. The Foundation instituted the award to recognize attorneys who "have tirelessly given their time and expertise to assist Arizonans who would otherwise have no legal resources." The nomination for this award came from the Children's Law Center Volunteer Lawyer Program. The Foundation plans to publicly announce Tom's award in the July/August issue of Arizona Attorney, the publication of record of the State Bar of Arizona.
Tom accepts pro bono juvenile court cases from the Children's Law Center, including guardianships, severances, and adoptions. He also accepts appointments as a family court advisor through the Children's Law Center.
(Also here: News: Named Top Pro Bono Attorney for 2013)
Selecting your family law attorney can be one of the most important decisions to make in your family law case. An attorney who gives you a complete and honest consultation will attempt to give you enough information so that you will not have many questions after discussing your case for a while. This is a list of questions that you should either ask during a consultation with a Phoenix, Arizona family law attorney, or, preferably, the attorney should answer before you ask.
1. Can you explain the issues in my case to me? This is a basic requirement. If the attorney cannot adequately and clearly identify and explain the issues in your case, look for another attorney.
2. Can you explain the procedure for my case to me? This is another basic requirement.
3. Who will handle my case? Many firms will assign your case to an attorney other than the attorney with whom you consult. It does not make any sense to interview an attorney and hire that attorney's firm, only to never deal with that attorney again. Also, many firms will assign a paralegal to do most of the work on your case. There is nothing wrong with someone else working on your case, but you should know who will do most of the work.
4. How would you handle my case? The attorney does not necessarily have to have a concrete plan as to how to handle your case, but the attorney should have a general idea and a basic plan for your case. Issues in a Phoenix, Arizona family law case, such as legal decision making (formerly custody), parenting time (visitation), child support, divorce, spousal maintenance (alimony), and other issues do not drastically vary from case to case, and an experienced family law attorney will have a general knowledge as to how to handle them.
5. What is your experience? You should know how long the attorney has practiced law, how long the attorney has practiced family law, where the attorney has practiced and for how long, how much of the attorney's practice is family law, and how often the attorney has seen the issues in your case.
6. How much of your firm/practice is dedicated to family law? You should know whether the attorney dabbles in family law or practices it on a regular basis.
7. What is your experience with my judge? This is not a deal breaker, but it can be helpful, and sometimes important, to your case if your attorney has some idea how the judge thinks, whether you should keep a particular judge on your family law case, and on what you judge may focus.
8. What is your experience with opposing counsel? This, too, is not a deal breaker, but it is sometimes helpful if your attorney has some idea of how the other attorney may approach the case, how he or she thinks, and how to deal with opposing counsel.
9. Ask yourself how you feel about the attorney. You should hire an attorney with whom you are comfortable. A divorce, custody battle, or other family law case may be one of the most difficult times in your life, and it helps to have an attorney that you trust and like. You want someone who makes a good team with you and someone with whom you will not have friction.
An attorney who is genuinely trying to give you your money's worth during a consultation will try to give information on most or all of these points without the client asking. Beware the attorney who will simply try to get you to hire him or her before he or she gives you a significant amount of information. If an attorney will not give you a satisfactory answer to any of these questions, you should look somewhere else for your attorney.
Thomas A. Morton, P. L. L. C.
2916 N. 7th Avenue, Suite 100
Phoenix, Arizona 85013
If you have a legal issue but aren't sure how to handle it, call Thomas A. Morton, Attorney.
If you've got a problem, let's work together and determine how to help you!
All information on this website is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation, as each case is different and contains different facts. I invite you to contact me and welcome your calls, letters and e-mail. Contacting me does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information until you establish an attorney-client relationship with me.
Attorney Thomas A. Morton is located in Phoenix, Arizona, and serves clients throughout Maricopa County, including Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale, Peoria, Gilbert, Chandler, Goodyear, Surprise, Avondale, Cave Creek, Carefree, New River, Anthem, Black Canyon City, Sun City, Laveen, Buckeye, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Tolleson, Youngtown, Queen Creek, Guadalupe, Fountain Hills, Paradise Valley, Wickenberg, Apache Junction, and El Mirage.