Protecting Yourself in a Divorce – What To Do

Couple arguing about divorce

If you’re considering divorce, or your spouse has already filed divorce papers, it’s important to understand the potential risks that coincide with ending a marriage and how to protect yourself during a divorce. Knowing your rights and proper steps to take leading up to and during divorce may help minimize the emotional and financial toll divorce often brings.

My husband wants a divorce what are my rights?

One of the first questions many prospective clients ask us is: “My husband or my wife wants a divorce what are my rights?” Well, the state of Texas is a no-fault divorce state, and that means no matter how badly YOU don’t want a divorce, your spouse still has the right to proceed with the divorce.

It also means the party filing for divorce doesn’t needs to prove fault grounds, however, fault grounds may be considered when determining the just and right division of a marital estate in Texas. (You can find out about no-fault divorce here)

Regarding specific rights, your attorney can explain rights specific to your case and how to protect yourself in a divorce based on those facts. However, in general, there are certain rights you can expect to be upheld in the initial phases of divorce.

While the case is pending, you would typically have the right to continue operating any business owned as you normally would. In most circumstances, you would also have the right to reasonable living expenses while the divorce is pending.

Temporary orders further clarify your rights. You can typically expect your temporary orders to pin down specific rights pertaining to child custody, visitation and access, child support in Texas, spousal support, use of property and how debt and expenses will be handled, among other rights.

Keep in mind that different counties—and even different judges within the same county—handle temporary orders differently. Consequently, hiring an attorney familiar with the inner workings of the family court system in the county where you reside is critical.

Once you get to court, the judge will confirm what constitutes separate property and community property, as Texas is a community property state. From a property perspective, you have the right to value the community estate and use experts to confirm the value of both separate and community property. Again, your attorney can review any additional rights based on your specific case.

Now that we’ve touched on basic rights during divorce in Texas, let’s move on to how to protect yourself before a divorce, during a divorce and afterward.

Protecting yourself in a divorce—Five steps to consider

If you are wondering how to protect yourself in a divorce against wife or husband, there are a number of steps you can take. Your attorney can provide specific guidance as it pertains to your case but here are a few steps worth considering.

Step 1: Don’t mention the word divorce until you have all of your ducks in a row.

People do a lot of crazy things once the word “divorce” is muttered, whether you’re serious about it or not. If you are serious about divorce and tip your hand, the other party could do anything from draining bank accounts and charging up credit cards to hiding assets and important financial information.

Be prepared to expect the unexpected, and by all means if protecting yourself in a divorce is important, don’t bark before you’re ready to bite. When you wait to get your ducks in a row, your attorney can help you take proactive measures to prevent money and assets from disappearing or credit cards from being maxed out.

Step 2: Secure documentation you have available to you and make a detailed list of information you need to get.

Before you file for divorce (or mention divorce to the other party) it’s vitally important to gather and make copies of any financial information you have access to. You’ll want to provide those copies to your attorney along with a comprehensive list of missing documents for any other financial accounts, business dealings, assets and debts you can’t get your hands on.

Your attorney needs this information to prepare a preliminary picture of your marital estate, and to help establish what if any separate property should be rightfully yours. Once you or the other party files for divorce, the attorney can request copies of any missing documents during the discovery phase of the divorce.

You should also make copies or grab screenshots of any emails, voicemails, text messages, social media posts and other conversations or communications that have a bearing on your case. We often use this type of evidence to establish a timeline of events in divorce cases.

Getting organized with your plan—including the summary timeline, all your exhibits and an inventory of items included in your marital estate—is something you need to be planning before you strike.

Step 3: Be forthcoming with your divorce attorney.

In other words, don’t keep any evidence or facts involving your marriage, financial dealings or children under wraps, even if that information doesn’t reflect well on you or your behavior. You don’t want the other side to reveal that information in court before you do if you’re concerned about how to protect yourself in divorce financially. 

If you don’t provide the documentation necessary to show your side of the case, even if it could be slightly harmful to you theoretically, the court can presume the other side’s testimony is true. Hiding the ball does not work well in divorce settings. In fact, most of the time it backfires.

Step 4: Set aside a nest egg to help cover expenses during divorce.

Getting a divorce will cost you several thousand dollars (read our blog “How much does it cost to get divorced in Texas” for details). As much as your attorney wants to help you out, he or she isn’t going to work for free, so you’ll need to figure out how to pay for your divorce.

If you have a bunch of money in a shared account, you could move half of it to a separate account to help cover your expenses. You’ll want to make sure you do this on the up and up, and your attorney can explain how. This is another step you can take if you want to know how to protect yourself in divorce financially because money in shared accounts often disappears once the divorce cards are laid on the table.

Setting aside money (as well as valuables and important paperwork) in a safe place is also critical if family violence is a concern in your family. If you’re afraid your spouse could harm you or your kids, start building a nest egg right away, even if that means discreetly taking out a little extra cash when you go to the grocery store.

Step 5: Don’t move out of the family residence unless absolutely necessary.

In the early stages of separation of divorce, we often hear people say, “I want to give her some space, or I’m going to give him space, so I’m going to move out of our home.” They leave most of their belongings in the home, and before you know it, months of “giving him or her space” time has elapsed.

Unfortunately, those actions set the precedent for the court to say, “OK, the one party moved out, so the other party gets exclusive use of the residence.” Move out and you may end up in a scenario where you’re out of the residence for a long period of time and all the stuff that you need, i.e., documentation, personal property and other valuables are stuck in the residence you no longer have access to.

And if you leave your children behind? That sets a precedent, too. Your attorney can provide additional insight on how to protect yourself in a divorce when child custody is a concern.

Have additional questions about how to protect yourself in a divorce?

If worries about how to protect myself in a divorce are keeping you up at night, contact a reputable divorce attorney for guidance. And if you live in the DFW metroplex, the experienced family law attorneys at the Sisemore Law Firm are here to help. Whether you’re just starting to think about divorce, seeking a divorce due spousal abandonment or have questions about sole custody in Texas—we can provide insight on what to do during a divorce in your specific case.

To schedule a confidential case review with the founder of the Sisemore Law Firm, attorney Justin Sisemore, please call our Fort Worth law office at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.

Photo Source: Canva.com

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