How To Prepare for An Impending Divorce In New York

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How To Prepare for An Impending Divorce In New York

It’s no secret that getting divorced is one of the most stressful events a person can experience in life – in fact, it is frequently ranked as #2 on lists of life’s most stressful experiences. While you may not be able to alleviate the stress of an impending divorce entirely, one way to decrease your stress when going through a divorce is to be prepared. 

Here are some helpful tips to help you prepare in advance if you anticipate a divorce in the future.

How to prepare in advance for an amicable outcome

You should keep several things in mind if you are planning to file for divorce, or you believe your spouse may be planning to file for divorce. Proper planning when a divorce is anticipated will help you obtain the best possible outcome.

The first thing you should be aware of is your income in regard to future spousal support or child support. Under New York State law, the amount you will pay for alimony (spousal support or maintenance) or child support is a strict amount based on your income. This amount will be calculated based on your most recently filed taxes. 

Like many people, you may be currently working overtime, picking up extra shifts, or even working multiple jobs to bring in extra income for your family. However, it is worth noting that all of this extra income will count when it comes to calculating your alimony or child support costs.

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If you think your spouse could potentially sue you for alimony or child support, you should consider your income, even if the divorce might not occur for another several months or a year. Earning extra income could lock you into a position where your spousal or child support payments are excessive or above what you can afford without working yourself into the ground.

It may be worth having a conversation with your spouse and communicating that, for your mental and physical health, you need to scale back. However, if you wait until divorce proceedings have been initiated, it will probably be too late to adjust your income for support payment calculations.

Second, if you anticipate that child custody or visitation will be an issue, it is essential to begin gathering evidence to support your case well in advance. It is common in divorce trials for both parents to argue that they should have custody, without providing proof as to why they should have primary care of their children.

In these cases, it is your word against the other parent. How is the Judge supposed to know who is telling the truth without actual evidence?

One way to show proof is to create a paper trail, such as a shared calendar that tracks what tasks you or your spouse are doing for the child over several months. Electronic communication can also be helpful to track parenting responsibilities. For example, if you ask your spouse to take your child to a playdate or an appointment and they refuse, this can help provide evidence to the court.

Like financial planning, it is important to gather this evidence long before the divorce is filed. Ideally, if these issues may be contested, you should have some evidence gathered to support your case before you schedule a consultation with your divorce attorney.

Professionals can help you with your divorce case

If you believe a divorce is in your future, you should, of course, be working with a divorce attorney. But you should also consider working with a financial planner or an asset manager who is skilled in counseling clients for divorce cases.

If possible, you should work with a certified divorce financial planner (https://institutedfa.com/). These financial planners are trained to counsel people who are going through a divorce or will imminently be going through a divorce. They are certified by an independent organization to help you put your income, assets, and properties in the best position.

A certified divorce financial planner will help you obtain a good outcome, and can also provide you with a realistic outlook of your situation. They can also work with your divorce attorney to improve your case.  Another professional to consider is an accountant who has handled cases involving divorcing couples.

You should meet with professionals as early as possible if you think there may be contested issues, such as assets, property, alimony, or child support. It often takes months to get your finances sorted, and if you wait until the divorce is being filed, it is usually too late.

When you may need a financial advisor before filing for divorce

Whether or not you need to work with a financial advisor before your divorce depends on what financial issues might be contested in the divorce. If you have no money, assets, or property, you likely do not need to see a financial planner. 

However, if there will be contested issues of assets, property division, alimony (or spousal maintenance), or child support, then we recommend that you work with a financial planner. A certified divorce financial planner can be an enormous asset to you during a divorce, as their job is to put you in the best financial position possible. 

It is relatively inexpensive to schedule an appointment or consultation, or even several consultations, with a financial planner. And if the money at stake is hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, then spending a few hundred dollars on sessions with a certified divorce financial planner is well worth it.

Many people think that just hiring a divorce attorney is good enough. But it is not good enough in some cases, especially if you have a high income or high net worth case. When there are contested financial issues, it is crucial to also work with a certified divorce financial planner (at the least).

If everything is black and white and the financial stakes are lower, you may not need a financial planner. However, you should schedule a consultation with your divorce attorney as soon as possible so your divorce attorney can inform you on whether you should also consult with a financial planner.

Moving your funds to a hidden account before filing for Divorce

In most divorce cases, there is a lookback period of three years. Moving assets around from one account to another or giving them to a family member may not help you in your divorce case. Indeed, in New York State, there is an automatic order prohibiting you from moving your funds to other accounts after the case is filed.

Even if you move funds a year before filing for your divorce, you still have to submit a net worth statement that lists all of your assets. This includes your bank account record, asset investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more. You must submit updated records on the date of filing, but you may have to show the last three years of records. In some cases, the court or opposing counsel can look at records from even earlier.

About David Bliven

David Bliven is a solo practitioner with offices in White Plains & Riverdale.  He has been practicing exclusively Divorce & Family law for more than 25 years.

Mr Bliven has an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell (the highest possible rating in both Legal Ability & Ethical Standards), a perfect 10.0 rating from Avvo (“Superb” rating) and is listed in the “Super Lawyers” directory by Thompson Reuters (a distinction given to less than 5% of all attorneys in each field of practice).  He is also a Certified Financial Litigator by the American Academy of Certified Financial Litigators – which is particularly helpful in high net worth divorces & support cases.  Mr Bliven has also authored the books “Navigating Your New York Divorce Case,” “Navigating Your New York Family Court Case,” “Navigating Your New York High Net Worth Divorce,”  “Navigating Your New York Post Divorce Case: Modifications & Enforcement,” “Navigating Your New York Contested Divorce Case” and the forthcoming “Navigating Your New York Divorce Agreement Case.”

Furthermore, he has been published at such periodicals as Nolo.com, New York Law Journal and Westchester Lawyer, as well as Westchester Magazine.  Finally, he was honored as one of 2019’s “New York’s Leaders in the Law” by New York Magazine.  He was also honored as a “Super Lawyer” for the New York Metro & Westchester area by Westchester Magazine, October, 2019.

His Family Law blog may be found at blivenlaw.net.