If you are considering a divorce or you believe your spouse may be considering filing for divorce, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Being prepared prior to filing for divorce can save you time and money spent on attorneys’ fees and expensive discovery and litigation.
- Prepare Your Records
It is important that both parties and their attorneys have a clear picture of the family’s finances, including all assets and debts, no matter whose name they are maintained in. It may be beneficial to make copies of bank statements, credit card statements, and investment statements along with a list of all items of property, bank accounts, credit cards, investment or retirement accounts, and insurance policies and their associated identifying numbers. If your attorney has to track down these records and get copies for you, it can get quite expensive.
Save all text messages, emails, photographs, or other pieces of electronic information that may be relevant to your case. Electronically stored information can be used as evidence in your case and it is important to have a strategy to preserve this evidence. This may also be a good time to change your passwords if your spouse knows them or has access.
Consulting with an attorney in the early stages of considering a divorce can help you protect your evidence and develop a strategy for preparing your case.
- Keep a Calendar or Journal
A calendar, timeline, or journal may be helpful in recalling events. A contested divorce or custody case could last months, or even a year or more, so having a written record of important events can be important. If you already keep a calendar or journal, keep doing it. If not, it may be helpful to start.
- Don’t Try to Conceal or Hide Any Assets or Make Any Major Changes
A Statutory Injunction will be applied as soon as the divorce is filed and served – we will discuss this in more detail later. Violating the Statutory Injunction can be punished as contempt of court. Additionally, if you move money, hide or dissipate money or other marital property, or change or cancel insurance policies (including medical and life insurance) shortly before filing a divorce, the Court can look back at those actions.
If you fear your spouse may be or is doing any of these things, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible because you may need a court order to protect or return those assets.
- Don’t Speak Poorly About Your Spouse
This is really important if you have children. Don’t speak poorly about your spouse or discuss the divorce or impending divorce with your children or with other people in front of your children. And do not use your children as the intermediary between you and your spouse.
- Stay Off Social Media.
Many people go to social media to share their life events, good and bad. It is important to note that social media can be used against you in court. Comments or discussions on social media, including posts and private or direct messages, along with the location services provided by many social media platforms are admissible in court and they can be recovered by experts, even if you think you have removed them. Do not delete your accounts or any posts. Although it may be difficult, the best thing you can do is stay completely off all social media platforms.
More About Statutory Injunctions
Whenever a divorce or legal separation is filed in Tennessee, a Statutory Injunction will automatically be put into place. The Statutory Injunction can be found at Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-106(d) and it applies to both parties in the case.
Among other things, the Statutory Injunction prevents either party from:
- Hiding, destroying, or dissipating any marital property
- Making any excessive or unusual expenditures from marital funds
- Changing or cancelling any insurance policies
- Relocating any children of the parties outside of the state of Tennessee or more than fifty (50) miles from the marital home without a court order
- Hiding or destroying any electronic evidence stored on phones, computers, or other devices.
- Harassing, threatening, or abusing the other party
- Making disparaging remarks about the other to or in front of the children and/or the other party’s employer
These are just a few of the prohibitions contained in the Statutory Injunction. You should contact an attorney regarding the specific prohibitions and requirements and how they apply to you.
Finally, if you and your spouse are considering an uncontested divorce, you will need to discuss and agree upon all aspects of the settlement agreement. A complete agreement includes:
- How you will divide up all of your property, assets, and debts
- How custody and child support will be handled, i.e. establishing a day-to-day schedule, determining who makes major decisions for the children, and setting child support in accordance with the law.
The more complete and detailed your agreement is, the less time your attorney will have to spend working on it, saving you time and attorneys’ fees.