Here are seventeen tips you can take before filing for divorce that will protect your interests and your bank account.
After a divorce is started in South Dakota, the courts automatically issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that prohibits you and your spouse from transferring money and property. Therefore, pre-divorce planning is very important.
Before starting a divorce, please review these general considerations:
- Some of these action steps may not fit your situation, and that is okay. The items on this list depend upon your unique situation.
- Some of these action steps are very much in the “contemplation stage” and this list could be divided in terms of preparing yourself for divorce or leaving the home tomorrow. The general rule is that the more prepared you are, the better off you will be.
- Children were intentionally left off this list as they should be shielded from the angst and turmoil as much as possible. You should always be looking out for the best interests of your children. In other words, keep the kids out of it.
Tip #1 - Open your own new and separate account, preferably at a separate bank. If possible, re-route your paychecks into this new account.
Tip #2 - Start saving small amounts of money in your separate account. You will inevitably need the money for living expenses and legal fees. Think of this as an emergency/rainy day fund that only you have access. Even if a reconciliation takes place, you can spend this money on more pleasant ventures. Something even as simple as the Acorns investing application on your phone will suffice.
Tip #3 - Make sure you have at least one credit card in your name only. Bonus points if the balance is zero.
Tip #4 - Review your credit report. You may be surprised (or not) by what you find. This is a good way to mark your financial situation on the day of separation.
Tip #5 - Joint Credit Accounts. In the event your spouse has uncontrolled spending, or even if s/he does not, it may be wise to close all joint credit accounts or risk being accountable for your spouse’s spending.
Tip #6 - Joint Accounts. There are four things to do with a joint checking/savings account depending on the circumstances of your case. While option four definitely may not be the most prudent, each situation is different based on the spending, personality, resources, and needs of each spouse.
- Leave it alone, do nothing; or
- Use it to pay bills, credit cards, medical bills, and or other big-ticket expenses; or
- Transfer half of the money into your own separate account; or
- Transfer all of the money into your own separate account.
Tip #7 - Download and/or save bank statements showing transaction history - you can tell a lot about a person by where and how they spend their money.
Tip #8 - Change all of your passwords even if you do not think your spouse has them. This is especially important for your telephone, computer, and online accounts.
Tip #9 - Obtain a separate email account to communicate with your attorney. Change all of your social media accounts to back up and restore to this email.
Tip #10 - Obtain a separate post office box, especially if you plan to move from the marital home.
Tip #11 - Do not post about your unhappiness on social media and do not boast about your plans with your friends. It is not unheard of for your “best friend” to end up with the very spouse you are talking about.
Tip #12 - Download a telephone application that inventories and saves your text messages. Assume any communication will be read by the judge.
Tip #13 - Keep a journal of your experiences. Write about how your spouse's actions affected either you or your children, not just the awful things s/he either did or said. If the record is kept with some consistency, this is useful evidence if you need to go to court.
Tip #14 - Obtain all of your spouse’s information at your disposal - calendars, diaries, old cell phones, computer hard-drives, bank records, retirement account information, bills, etc. There are data specialists that can inventory and extract this information.
Tip #15 - Obtain as much financial information as you can. To help with this process, you should download our law firm's book - 36 Financial Records You Should Have & Understand as You Approach a South Dakota Divorce™.
Tip #16 - Inventory your assets, debts, liabilities, and expenses. The more you do for yourself now, the less you (or your attorney) has to do later.
Tip #17 - Know what you want to keep. If possible, find receipts for household items. The more information you have, the better.