Exit Plan: Before Leaving Marital Residence – Part One

Continuing with the considerations in putting together a proper Exit Strategy:

Emotional Factors

Once there is a decision in a household to divorce, the emotions skyrocket. People are under the misconception that moving out somehow makes it better because you are not dealing with the other spouse moment to moment in the same household. This is not only false, but living in separate household and what comes with it most often increases the emotions and stress of your lives and that of your children.

Suddenly, in different households, the finances are often strained to the limit. No one is using the same checking account to purchase what is needed for the children. The parents are fighting over where the children will spend the night and, frankly, everyone loses the control of their children that they had while everyone was living together. Your children are taken from their home for portions of their time, so their emotions are a wreck as well. Staying in the marital residence keeps down the added emotions and stress that two residences creates for your family, including your children. By the time a divorce is finalized, the emotions have generally leveled out and everyone is prepared for the two household family.

The Numbers: Income, Assets and Debts

Common sense indicates that you need to figure out your budget before you move from the marital residence. You also need make copies of certain documents to take with you to determine child support, alimony, payment of debts and ultimately distribution of all assets in a divorce action.

Once you leave the marital residence, it is unlikely that you will have the opportunity to re-enter to obtain the information and documents that you will need for even the simplest issues, no less the major issues. Now is your last opportunity.

Make copies of pay stubs, income tax returns, pay stubs, bank account statements, retirement statements, social security statements, trust documents, titles to vehicles, copies of all bills including mortgage statements and auto loans, check book registers, even deeds to your home and tax bills.  Your goal is to gather the paperwork to document income, expenses and assets. If your household has sources of income other than a regular paycheck, you may want to put together a list of those other sources of income to make sure you do not forget anything in your document gathering.

Though you may not immediately need some of all of these documents, take advantage of the last opportunity to copy all documents that you will need to support your case. Gather and copy these documents in a reasonable fashion. Do not do crazy things like break into locked spouse’s filing cabinets in your spouse’s office or take all of the original documents leaving your spouse with nothing. Courts hate that type of thing.

You may even be in the fortunate position of you and your spouse agreeing to your exit of the marital residence giving you the opportunity to put all of this together with agreement and aid of your spouse./

Prepare a Budget

In putting your budge together, you will need to determine the income and expenses once you leave the marital residence. Accuracy in preparing this budget is vital, so documenting it is extremely important. The court will use this information to determine things such as child support, alimony and ultimate distribution of debt and asset.

A budget includes income from all sources and all expenses including payment of all bills of all sorts. This is why you need copies of your bills and mortgage statements and auto loan statements.

Parenting in Separate Homes

Parents who are suddenly living separately has a massive effect on your children. Everything that they are used to doing and understanding has disappeared and they need to find a way to cope with it all. You are not only moving them from their home, but away from all of their things and from their other parent. As traumatic as this may be for the parents, it is likely re-doubled for your children. Even if you are moving from the marital residence and the children are remaining, there is still a great impact on the children.

This is where the part of the parenting job of helping your children deal with this change has to be put into play. Children are all different and many factors go into how they will react to the changes in their lives that are coming. Sometimes mental health care providers are a good choice to help in the transitions for the children, sometimes lawyers can be of assistance in making the changes less traumatic for the children and to be certain that you are preserving your legal rights in the process. There is no magic feather to make this easy for your children, but it is something you must consider and address to help your children through your decisions.

Sharing your children through parenting time and legal decision-making: Parents generally find it very difficult to adjust to handing their children over to someone else on a regular basis and having to make plans around someone else having the children, even when it is the other parent. Just as your children have to adjust to this, you do, too. It will be the way you live until the children are old enough to not need an order to tell them with whom they will spend their time.

Trying to set a schedule: Arizona uses the terms “parenting time” rather than custody and visitation and “legal decision-making” for what is commonly known as legal, rather than physical, custody. If at all possible, you and your spouse need to put together a schedule of parenting time that will work for you long term. In addition, you need to determine how you are going to share decision-making for your children. If it is not possible to work out a schedule that will work between you long term, then a court will make a temporary decision for you. Often, these temporary decisions stick.

It is important to know your rights and to know how the courts generally decide in these matters. That will help you in determining what is reasonable for you and your children based on the circumstances of your particular matter.

Calendars and Notes: Keeping records can help your custody case because it gives you something more than mere accusations and guesses as to dates, times and details. One effective way of doing this is to keep a calendar for the sole purpose of parenting schedules and notes.

Use this calendar to show where the children are each night, when the other parent failed to exercise their time with the children or were late without notice in both picking up or returning the children. There are instances where putting information for telephone calls might be in order or excuses for non-attendance at events for the children. This calendar may be used for negotiating your custody case or it may end up in court, so no judgments, name calling or personal opinions belong on it. Just the facts of each and every event or contact. The calendar will have exact dates of events so that you are not guessing or trying to remember. Expect that your spouse will be keeping a calendar of their own.

Exit Plan: Before Leaving the Marital Residence, Part Three

If you need to consult on proper divorce planning and exit strategy, Contact Diana, or call 565-2760.