Divorce: Timing And Finance Issues You Need To Consider Before You File

Figuring out the rules for a divorce can be tricky -- and one of the hardest things to figure out may be how you are going to afford everything from basic living expenses to an attorney. Even if money hasn't been tight before, you can find yourself without easy access to funds if you don't do a little pre-divorce planning. If you're thinking about a divorce, this is what you need to keep in mind:

Know What To Expect After You File

Depending on your state, as soon as the petition is filed, an automatic temporary injunction (ATI) may go into effect. Sometimes called automatic temporary restraining orders (ATRO), these are court orders that are designed to protect the legal interests of both members of the marriage. You and your spouse, no matter who files for the divorce, are expected to conform to certain rules:

  • you can't transfer any of your marital funds out of joint accounts, except for ordinary life expenses and normal household bills

  • you can't sell off any marital property, and that includes anything that you might think of as "yours," such as jewelry, without your spouse's consent

  • you have to notify your spouse of any unexpected expenses, such as the security deposit on a rental property or the purchase of a new vehicle

  • you can't cancel health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, or house/rental insurance, nor refuse to pay the premiums

  • you have to keep a record of your expenses and be ready to account for any unusual ones to the court in the future

Not all states have these automatic injunctions. However, even if your state doesn't have them, your attorney may ask for one in order to protect your interests. Either way, you should know what to expect and what limitations you'll be faced with once you file. That way you aren't caught off-guard.

Time Your Actions Carefully

It may sound callous, but you have to think of divorce as a largely financial transaction. As such, timing is everything. Once you decide to divorce, you need to remove your share of the family's available money from the joint accounts before you file to avoid problems with the ATI/ATRO.

How much are you allowed to take? Technically, you have the right to anything in your joint accounts, as long as there isn't a court order stopping you. However, if you're hoping to get through things fairly amicably with your ex, that could put your divorce off to a very bad start.

The safest route to take is to consult with your attorney in advance and discuss the issue. Failing that, you're probably best off taking no more than you need to meet your basic expenses and certainly no more than half of what's in your accounts. For more information regarding divorce law, seek help from Grenadier, Starace, Duffett & Keisler, PC or other family & divorce attorneys.