Though a divorce is an unpleasant and tragic occurrence, secretly planning for one may be necessary in highly traumatic or high-conflict marriages. Here is a checklist of to-do things that can help you secretly prepare for a divorce:
- Collect personal information
- Assemble information regarding individual (separate) property and common marital property
- Gather financial papers
- Build a support team
- Make a budget and create an emergency fund
- Search for a place to live
- Keep things normal and pleasant
Either spouse can decide to secretly plan for a divorce if the marriage is extremely unpleasant and beyond repair, if an affair is revealed, if there is a total lack of commitment from one spouse and no amount of reasoning can bring back that commitment, there is domestic violence, or for other reasons. Whatever the reasons may be, here is a checklist that can help the spouse who has decided to file for divorce keep the planning stage secret.
Collect Personal Information
- Legal names and birthdates of both spouses
- Postal address on which legal papers can be mailed/served
- Social Security Numbers (SSN) of both spouses
- Employers’ names and details of wages earned by both spouses
- Usernames and passwords of online accounts, including social media accounts, of the spouse who is filing for divorce
- Proof that both spouses are residents of the state
- Current as well as past (if any) marriage/divorce certificates
- Details of visits to marriage counselors
- A document that lists the reasons for divorce
- Will(s) or power(s) of attorney
- Relevant details about the kids (biological or adopted, from the current or past marriage, their age, school, etc.). The details should contain documents/information such as birth certificate, details of school, details of the kids’ doctor, insurance, SSN, any child support you are receiving/paying, monthly expenses per child, adoption papers, and other applicable documents.
Assemble Information Regarding Individual (Separate) Property and Common Marital Property
Property is divided based on the property distribution laws followed by your state (community distribution or equitable distribution) unless a prenuptial agreement states how property is to be distributed in case of divorce, as well as identifies properties that belong individually to either spouse.
It is desirable to gather the papers, proof of ownership, insurance policies, tax receipts, mortgage documents, mortgage deeds, estimated value, photos/videos, and other applicable details of the following properties that can be owned in individual or joint names, and which can be regarded as separate or common marital property:
- Long-term assets owned by the family, or a business to which either or both the spouses are connected
- Household and personal items
Assemble and Make Copies of the Following Financial Papers
- Cash on hand, and the locations where it is stored
- Bank accounts along with the latest statements
- Investments (stocks/bonds/etc.)
- Cryptocurrencies along with their wallet details
- Tax returns
- Insurance policies (health/property/kids insurance)
- Credit reports
- Mortgage and non-mortgage debt deeds
- Personal loan statements
- Retirement account statements
Build a Support Team
Many divorces are heartbreaking events that can cause huge imbalances in your life. A divorce can make one feel isolated, bitter, and cold. Therefore, it helps to assemble a support team that can help cope with the emotional, legal, spiritual, financial, and physical health fallouts that are likely to set in, maybe promptly, after filing for a divorce.
Make a Budget and Create an Emergency Fund
A spouse who secretly plans for a divorce should ideally be prepared for financial fallout, especially if she/he is not the breadwinner. Therefore, it makes sense to create a fund for post-separation emergencies. In a divorce that is not brought about by mutual understanding, a spouse can consider opening a new bank account.
Plus, creating a post-separation monthly budget can help the spouse understand how cash will move going forward, and thus help plan in advance and thus reduce financial problems.
Search for a Place to Live
A spouse can search for a place to live after the physical separation if she/he believes that carrying on together can be painful, dangerous, or unbearable. In any case, after a divorce, one spouse moves out – and therefore it makes sense to look for living options during the divorce-planning stage.
Moving out of the marital home can be a painful experience that also adversely impacts finances. Therefore, it makes sense to keep the budget for the new place on the lower side, say, not more than 25% of the monthly income.
Keep Things Normal and Pleasant
Finally, a divorce is not the end of the world. Things don’t have to get worse and more unpleasant in the process, especially during the divorce-planning stage. If the spouse who is planning to divorce gets aggressive or intimidating or excessively cold/detached, the other spouse may suspect something is off and start digging around, and perhaps discover what is happening behind the scenes.
Before signing off, here are a few final suggestions:
- Consider opening a separate email to communicate with your lawyers.
- Consider maintaining your standard of living before filing for divorce because becoming frugal can impact the alimony.
- Consider obtaining a personal credit card if you do not have one.
- Consider short-listing family law attorneys while planning for the divorce.
- Discuss your plans only with close and trusted people who can keep a secret.
- Start planning and thinking about the children’s issues such as custody, child support, college savings, and other related matters.