18 Sep PREPARING FOR THE UNEXPECTED
When clients come to me, before either party has filed… the first thing I tell them is to make copies of financial documents and to obtain account information. When we are love, everything is blissful, but you can still be in love, happy, and have knowledge of your finances. It’s much easier to find the money when one knows which accounts exist. Just because you believe the spouse has money and has hidden it, without accounts it can be difficult to find and the courts don’t impute income and assets based on what you believe to be true. Also, having the ability to prove intentional withholding and hiding of assets helps you when you are requesting attorney’s fees.
So many women have little financial information about their marital finances. It is often so much easier to have one party manage the marital finances, which works well until it doesn’t work at all like in a divorce action. If you don’t have the information about your marital assets, marital debts, and financial accounts you are already behind the 8 ball in a divorce action. Your spouse will be able to move money or transfer assets to someplace where you will never find out about them, which will leave you with no access to immediate funds and no way to pay bills. Additionally, not knowing what assets your spouse has could affect the amount of spousal support you could be entitled to.
Unfortunately, having little to no knowledge about your marital finances can wreak havoc and cause additional stress during a dissolution of marriage action. I have represented many women who come home to a note that their spouse has left, the bank accounts emptied. As an attorney, it is very difficult when someone in the marriage has no idea what the marital assets include. I have to rely on the other party to honestly disclose all the marital assets, marital debts, and financial accounts. If they are not honest in their disclosures, there may be assets out there you are entitled to that we will never know about. The truth is that nobody wants to imagine being put in a situation where they would have to control the finances of their partner. However, in order to avoid being thrown off-guard, you have to prepare for the unexpected and get to know your spouse. Thus, in case of emergency, it is necessary that you have a full comprehension of the financial records of your spouse
To start with, it is important for you to be aware of the marital and non-marital bank accounts, which includes retirement accounts, money market accounts, investment accounts, stocks, etc. Make sure that you have all the information you need on the bank account of your spouse if he/she has a bank account, including the name of the bank, the account numbers, and any passcodes that are needed to access the accounts. You should also ensure that you have access to all of these accounts, and if you don’t, have your name added to them.
You should also be aware of the marital debts. Your spouse could be racking up credit card debt that you don’t know about, but would be responsible for in the event of a divorce. Any debts either of you incur during the marriage will reduce the value of the marital estate, and thus reduce any financial payout you may be entitled to during the divorce.
Knowing how your bills are paid and what accounts they are paid from is also important during a divorce. If bills were historically paid through a particular account and your spouse stops depositing money in that account to pay bills with, we can ask the Court to order your spouse to continue depositing money in that account so you can keep up with bills during the divorce.
Your spouse may have assets other than bank accounts that you need to know about. For instance, real estate (other than the marital home), a boat, vehicles, valuable collectibles, etc. These assets may be part of the marital estate, and you may be entitled to the value of these assets. While assets like real estate and vehicles leave a paper trail that is easier to follow, it will still cost you time and money to track them down in a divorce. Personal property, such as a baseball signed by Babe Ruth or a valuable antique are much easier to hide. It is important that you know what assets your spouse is acquiring during your marriage should you end up in a divorce.
If you have any questions about preparing for the unexpected, please call my office for your free consultation.