by Houston Divorce Lawyer Sam M. “Trey” Yates, III
If you are contemplating divorce, or decided to leave a failed relationship, you are not alone. In the United States, more than 2 million marriages end in divorce each year.
Statistically, many women who divorce end up shortchanged financially, so I advise those contemplating divorce to spend some time getting their “ducks in a row” beforehand, and develop a comprehensive pre-divorce exit plan.
Information is power, and the more you know, the better informed you will be in making decisions about the many aspects of the divorce process and what lies ahead for you. Each situation is unique, so be sure to assemble a team of trusted and skilled advisors and supporters to assist you along the way. This should include an experienced, board certified family law attorney, as well as a financial planner and/or accountant, a close friend or relative you can trust and if applicable, a licensed therapist, and a life- or career-coach, among others.
Here are a number of actions to take as you prepare for your divorce:
- Assemble copies of statements on all bank accounts, 401(k)s, pension plans, stock portfolios, bonds, CDs, etc. as well as all credit cards, loans, debts, etc. Your attorney will need your income tax statements for the last three years. You will also need details on all automobiles and large ticket items owned by yourself and your spouse. Make a list of all assets in yours and your spouse’s name.
- If you own real estate, gather together any documents or information you have on purchasing the property, as well as its location, mortgage statements, taxes, insurance and current market value. Make a copy of your will and any applicable trust documents. Also make copies of automobile, home and life insurance policies and statements. In addition, it’s a good idea to gather household expense statements – utilities (electric, gas, water, sewer and garbage pickup), security system, automobile payments, cable TV, Internet, insurance, lawn service, etc.
- Depending on your situation, you may want to get a cell phone in your name and set up a new email account for correspondence with your divorce team.
- It’s also a good idea to prepare emotionally and mentally for this process. Divorce is rarely easy, so now might be a good time to establish a relationship with a licensed therapist who can provide understanding and support. To relieve stress and ensure good health, you may want to start a work out plan or go to the gym. If children are involved, at the appropriate time, tell them and get them some counseling to help with the transition. Before separating, be sure you have medical insurance.
- If domestic violence has played a role in your marriage, take steps to protect yourself and your children. Take photos of any injuries and keep medical records related to the incident. Inform your attorney if there is any threat of further abuse. If the danger is immediate, take the children and go to a safe location before contacting your attorney and/or the police.
- If you have depended on your spouse for financial security, you would be wise to consider how you might generate income going forward. Under Texas law, you may qualify for spousal maintenance, depending on your age, length of marriage, education, ability to be self-supporting, etc. Do not let this stop you from ending a failed relationship. You may find that you are quite capable of pursuing your own career goals and making an income, which may bring you a great sense of accomplishment and pride.
- Above all, don’t get discouraged. Get the information and assistance you need from your divorce team to make informed decisions, gather the necessary documents and make plans for “your next best life” beyond divorce. You deserve it!
Sam M. “Trey” Yates, III is a Houston-based Board Certified Family Law Attorney and creator of The Guide to Good Divorce seminars for women. If you have questions about your Houston divorce, please contact The Law Office of Sam M. “Trey” Yates, III, P.C. for a consultation.