What to Consider If You’re Considering Divorce

No one marries with the expectation of failure, but statistics today paint a grim picture. According to the National Center for Health, approximately 43% of marriages today end in divorce. There are several simple and logical steps you can take to protect yourself financially and emotionally if you believe your marriage may be in trouble.

Tip #One: Familiarize Yourself With Family Finances

It’s not uncommon for a wife to have taken an inactive role in financial decisions and planning, particularly where the husband has been the primary wage earner. However, it is important that you become familiar with financial records, and gather copies of documents relating to assets owned by either or both spouses. Make lists and get records of bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, insurance plans, tax returns, etc. You may wish to keep copies of these documents at your place of employment or other secure location.

Tip #Two: Keep Non-Marital Assets Separate

Non-marital assets are considered the asset of either the husband or the wife and generally are awarded to that person in a divorce proceeding. In South Carolina, categories of non-marital assets include property owned prior to the marriage, inheritances, and gifts to one spouse rather than to the family. If non-marital assets are commingled with marital assets they may become transmuted into marital property and subject to division in a divorce. Accurate records tracing the origin of non-marital property will make it more likely for a court to protect the property as belonging solely to one spouse.

Tip #Two: Keep Non-Marital Assets Separate

Another related option is binding arbitration. In this case the divorcing couple agrees that the arbitrator, once again an experienced family court attorney, will hear the issues via documents that are assembled and submitted or through a special hearing, similar to a trial yet much less formal. The arbitrator plays the role of judge and makes all decisions pertaining to the case. But the process entails far fewer hours and fees and unlike a full-blown trial in Family Court, can be easily scheduled and quickly expedited. Like mediating couples, spouses participating in arbitration are likely to save on legal fees. An added plus regarding this scenario is that decisions made by the arbitrator are binding.

Tip #Three: Document Events That Strengthen Your Case

Fault in a marriage is often considered by the family court in deciding issues such as alimony, custody and property division. Document occurrences such as physical abuse, adultery and drug or alcohol abuse. Keep a diary of ongoing behavior that has contributed to the break up of the marriage.

Tip #Four: Establish Your Own Credit

If you don’t have one already, obtain at least one credit card in your name to establish an individual credit history. When you’re on your own, it will increase your chance of qualifying for loans, mortgages and other credit.

Tip #Five: Get Your Personal “Ducks” in Order

Before separation, take your automobile in for a routine check and make appointments for any necessary medical and dental check-ups. You don’t need unforeseen stressors as you approach this difficult period. Also, if you wait until after separation, these expenses may be yours alone.

Tip #Six: Take Your Time and Seek Support

Reinforce connections with family and friends; strong emotional support will be especially valuable at this time. It may be helpful to discuss your situation with a physician, counselor and/or clergy. Don’t rush matters – this is your new beginning.

For more information regarding alternative methods of divorce resolution, please call Clark & Stevens at 843-842-3500.

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