Despite the emotions you may be feeling, it's important to keep a clear head before and during the divorce process. Since you will be making crucial decisions that will affect your and your children's future, there are things you should take care of prior to filing for divorce. Whether the split is amicable or adversarial, it helps to plan for divorce and prepare for certain situations before putting proceedings in motion.
Planning for the Cost of Divorce
Your financial status may change significantly following the divorce; therefore, it's important to look at the overall picture when considering your future financial security. Besides your normal monthly bills and living expenses, you will have attorney's fees to pay in addition to court costs.
The divorce process itself can be financially draining, especially if you take your case to court. But if you and your spouse can amicably work out the terms of a divorce agreement on your own without the need to go to court, filing an uncontested divorce can save you money in court costs. If you need help in arriving at a divorce and/or child custody agreement, collaborative divorce or mediation are additional options that are less adversarial and keep you out of divorce court.
Updating Your Will
Although it may be one of the last things on your mind at the time, you should update your will before the divorce becomes final. A divorce can take several months to finalize, and depending on the number and nature of the legal issues that need to be resolved, it may take longer.
You need to make any changes to your will before filing for divorce. Otherwise, if you die before the court grants your divorce and you previously named your spouse as an heir in your will, he or she can still inherit. Even if your spouse isn't named in your will, as long as you aren't yet legally divorced when you die, your spouse may be able to make a claim to and receive some part of your estate.
Depending on the state in which you reside, you may be able to write your spouse out of your will if you have a divorce pending. Before filing for divorce, you can protect non-probate assets–those that pass directly to named beneficiaries–by changing the name of the beneficiary from your spouse to another beneficiary you choose. Creating a trust is another way to see that your assets go to the heirs you choose.
Maintaining Health Insurance
Continuing to have health insurance both during and after the divorce proceedings generally is a key concern for most individuals. Usually, during the divorce process, the courts require spouses to maintain the same health insurance plans they had before filing for divorce. If you are covered under your spouse's plan, coverage normally ends once the divorce becomes final.
Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), you have the right to continue your existing coverage for up to three years following the divorce. But you must pay the entire health insurance premium plus administrative costs.
Unless you can get on another group health plan, other options to consider, especially if COBRA is too costly for your budget, include temporary health insurance, an individual major medical plan, or Medicaid. In addition to being able to access preventive health services and essential health benefits following your divorce, keep in mind that chronic illness or disability can affect your need for long-term medical services.
A pregnancy while you are getting a divorce can sometimes make it more difficult to get divorced. Until a final divorce decree is granted, state law generally presumes a husband to be the father.
A judge may refuse to grant the divorce, especially if there is concern about who will be sharing in the financial responsibility for the child. Sometimes the reason judges delay granting the divorce–at least until after the child is born–is to allow time for the parties involved to establish paternity and child support to prevent the need for family court appearances following the divorce.
For further assistance, contact a local divorce lawyer, such as Craig H. Lane, PC.