Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Going Through a Divorce - Everything You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Children

Going Through a Divorce - Everything You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Children

By S Matthews

Going through a divorce is never an incredibly happy time, but there are ways to make it as stress-free as possible - and protect yourself and your interests while you're at it. Even if your divorce is a relatively amicable one, you still want to get the best deal you can, and hopefully protect yourself and your assets now and in future.

Top Ways to Protect Your Finances
Don't forget to change your will. Many couples forget to do this after the divorce. Don't.

When an imminent divorce is inevitable, there are simple ways to protect yourself from the financial fracas that will ensue. Get your finances in order and you'll be on your way to surviving the battle without any deep monetary scars...
* Open an individual checking account. Do this as soon as possible. Not only will it help your credit rating, but will also help you sort out who has what.

* Establish as much credit as possible. Credit is vital when it comes to borrowing money, and credit scores can affect future properties you may rent and even the type of job you get. Make sure you don't suffer any fall-out from your spouse's lousy credit rating, and do as much as possible to establish a solid credit rating of your own. If you've never had a credit card of your own before - and many women haven't, believe it or not - get on the horse as soon as possible.

* Track down credit cards. Make sure your spouse isn't charging things to your name, or on a joint credit card, which could affect your rating. Track down and cancel any joint accounts. This can be difficult if they are not being sent to your home address. You can freeze accounts by telling the credit card companies that you are going through a divorce.

* Take care of the mortgage and other loans. If you will continue living in the house it's important that only your name is on the mortgage, and vice versa. The divorce proceedings will sort out who is paying for what. Transfer the car to one name as well through the Department of Motor Vehicles, and sort out who is paying for what loans.

* Keep track of all investments etc. Go through all you and your spouse own with a fine-toothed comb, and make copies of every single financial document you unearth. This can include mortgage and life insurance documents, 401(k) statements, tax returns, bank statements, money market accounts etc. Also, make sure your name is on every legal document, especially the title or deed of property the two of you bought together.

* See if you qualify for alimony, support and/or maintenance. Support isn't based solely on gender - both men and women can get it. Similarly, you don't need to have kids to receive it. Don't make assumptions, get the facts. Speak to a divorce lawyer as soon as you can.

* Save money. You never know when you will need it, so now is not the time to be a spendthrift. Squirrel away what you can in your individual bank account - it might soon come in handy!

* Consider mediation as opposed to litigation. A lot less time-consuming - and costly. If it works, this is usually the best - and more financially viable way - to come to an agreement for everyone concerned.

* Don't forget to change your will. Many couples forget to do this after the divorce. Don't.

* Hire a financial planner with a specialty in divorce. They can advise you what to do next as far as asset division is concerned based on your current situation.

Top Ways to Protect Your Children
Your children should be top priority when it comes to a divorce, so don't make things worse by acting badly. Children do best when both parents stay involved in their lives, so keep this in mind next time you feel like telling your ex to jump off a tall building or move to the North Pole. Here are other ways to make your kids deal better with your divorce...

* Explain that it's not their fault. Don't let your kids grow up thinking they could have done something to prevent Mommy and Daddy from splitting up. Tell them it has nothing to do with them, and that both of you still love them more than anything.

* Answer their questions as honestly as possible. That doesn't mean telling them that Daddy had 12 affairs and is in love with a woman half his age, and that he enjoys dressing up in high heels and a pink feather boa when they're asleep. What it does mean, however, is being as honest as possible, while not involving them in things they don't really need to know.

* Keep things as amicable as possible in front of them. Airing petty grievances in front of the children and arguing constantly will only backfire in the long run.

* Aim for shared custody arrangements, if possible. Children benefit from being with both parents. Make sure they have two happy, harmonious home environments and try to have both parents as involved in their lives at school as possible. Encourage your child to maintain a close relationship with the other parent, and encourage each other to be as active as possible in your children's lives, without canceling appointments and trying always to be on time.

* Avoid the temptation to quiz your children about what is going on in the other parent's life, and don't use them to carry messages back and forth between you. They don't need the added responsibility, and it's not fair on them to feel they have to take sides or be in control of your relationship with your ex. Also, resist the urge to say bad things about the other parent in front of the kids.

Top Ways to Protect Yourself Personally
When all is said and done, you still have a life to live - on your own. Flying solo can be a liberating experience, once you've got over the shock of the divorce. Make it easier on yourself by following these simple tips...

* Make sure you are employable. If you haven't worked for years, don't panic. Speak to a career counselor or life coach about re-doing your resume. Maybe all you need is to take a few courses or have an internship to get back on top of things. Maybe not: your life experience will count for more than you think!

* Have lots of friends and family around you. Don't suffer things on your own. Seeing a film or visiting an art gallery can take your mind off your problems, if only for a few hours. Ask for support if you need it and try to enjoy the little things in life.

* Seek new friends. Many married couples rely on other married couples for companionship, and often are left high and dry when they venture out on their own. Starting a new hobby can help you develop new interests and meet new people while you're at it.

* Resist the rebound. While having new relationships can be fantastic, don't jump into a full-time romance immediately. Take the time to look around and enjoy yourself. Don't let friends set you up on a date, at least for a while. Being on your own is important - for now.

Going through a divorce is never easy, but there are ways to minimize both the pain and the hassle. If you play your cards right you can make the whole process run as smoothly as possible - and make sure your future is financially secure as well. Take your time and get the help you need, and keep up a positive, optimistic outlook. Good luck!

Sarah Matthews is a writer for Yodle, a business directory and online advertising company. Find a Healer at Yodle Local or more Health & Medicine articles at Yodle Consumer Guide.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Facebook, MySpace and Twitter Evidence in Custody Battles and Divorce

In this new age of technology, watch what you put on the web. Did you friend your soon-to-be ex wife's aunt and forget about it because she never posts? If so, then you can be guaranteed she will be gleefully printing pictures and posts on your page and handing them to her attorney for evidence against you. Did you playfully suggest on Facebook that you want to "leave the kids at home and get smashed tonight?" Then, be prepared for it to turn up as Exhibit A at your trial.

Edwards & Associates recently won custody for a father at trial. Included as primary exhibits were her Facebook and Myspace pages. Of particular interest were several scantily clad pictures of the young mother of 4, and posting of her announcing that she "goes to the club too much" and that she "was drinking IN THE CAR on the way to the club." She turned bright red and said that was her personal business. The Court did not agree and stripped her of custody and ordered her to pay child support. Here is a great recent article printed in the AJC.

Facebook a treasure trove for divorce lawyers

By Larry Hartstein

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
9:55 a.m. Thursday, February 11, 2010

As if divorce lawyers needed more ammunition.

In a new survey, 81 percent say they've seen an increase in the use of Facebook and other social networking sites for evidence in divorce cases. Notes to lovers, compromising photos -- Facebook provides a wealth of incriminating information.

"Every client I've seen in the last six months had a Facebook page," said Ken Altshuler, a longtime divorce lawyer from Portland, Maine, who is first vice president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "And the first piece of advice I give them is to terminate their page immediately."

Sixty-six percent of the attorneys surveyed by the AAML called Facebook the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence, followed by MySpace (15 percent) and Twitter (5 percent).

"Going through a divorce always results in heightened levels of personal scrutiny," said Marlene Eskind Moses of Nashville, the group's president. "If you publicly post any contradictions to previously made statements and promises, an estranged spouse will certainly be one of the first people to notice and make use of that evidence."

Altshuler cited a couple cases in which Facebook proved key:

A woman was getting divorced from her alcoholic husband and seeking custody of their kids. The husband told the judge he had found God and hadn't had a drink in months, but Altshuler found a recent Facebook photo showing him "holding a beer in each hand with a joint in his mouth," the lawyer said.

Then there was the custody case in which his client's ex-wife claimed to be engaged. She was trying to show she'd provide a stable household for the kids.

But the same woman had posted on Facebook that she'd broken up with her abusive boyfriend and "if anybody had a rich friend to let her know," Altshuler said.

The ex-husband's friend gave him the posting; he was still Facebook friends with the ex-wife.

"People don't think about who has access to their Facebook page," Altshuler said. "A good attorney can have a field day with this information."