Valentine’s Day has been traditionally associated with love. People often express their love and affection through gifts, such as candy, flowers, cards and romantic interludes. But personally, I have never understood Valentine’s Day; a day for the compulsory expression of love seems unnecessary. Even when I was a kid, I always felt love should be expressed throughout the year. Well, now as a divorce lawyer, I see another downside of Valentine’s Day, as do apparently a lot of people. Throughout my 18 years of practicing family law, I have always knows that February is one of our busiest months for divorces and dissolutions. Now, the data confirms that “V-Day” might soon need to be renamed “D-Day.” According to Avvo.com, a site offering ratings and profiles for lawyers, the rate of divorce filings increases about 40 percent around Valentine’s Day. There are many reasons why experts in the field believe this to be the case, but it is likely that people do not want to ruin family holidays at the end of the year with news of a divorce; instead, they make a new year’s resolution to end a bad marriage and do so before having to celebrate that compulsory romantic holiday, Valentine’s Day.
While this may sound depressing, there is simply no reason for people who might be facing “D-Day” to wallow in their sorrows; rather, taking control of one’s bad situation can be emotionally liberating, financially rewarding and legally smart. So, if “D-Day” might be on your calendar, consider these “do’s” and “don’ts” as first steps in moving forward:
Do’s of Divorce:
- Treat the relationship with your spouse as a business relationship.
- Obtain copies of documents that enable you to identify all financial assets and liabilities.
- Obtain your own credit report.
- Ensure that you have a credit card in your name alone.
- Make photographs/ videos/ inventory lists of contents in your home.
- Consider changing the title on your house from joint tenancy to tenancy in common and then make a new will.
- Seek new professional service providers (such as your own tax accountant).
- Start co-parenting.
- Disclose, disclose, disclose – each party has an affirmative duty to disclose all financial circumstances including but not necessarily limited to their assets, income, expenses and investment opportunities.
- Consider alternatives to litigation (mediation, limited scope representation, private judging).
Don’ts of Divorce:
- Remove your spouse as beneficiary of life insurance and retirement plans without their written consent.
- Hide, transfer or dispose of assets or encumber property.
- Remove your spouse or children from health insurance policy coverage.
- Create and fund a trust during a divorce.
- Involve children in your dispute with your spouse.
- Make emotional decisions.
- Delay/ avoid seeking legal advice.
- Take unreasonable positions
- Remove a child or children from the State of California without obtaining the written consent of the other parent or a court order.
- Keep the house if you intend to sell it soon after the divorce is final.
It’s obvious that these two lists involve practical and unromantic realities – the opposite of what “V-Day” is supposed to celebrate. But “D-Day” is no time to be sentimental; instead, it’s the time to get on with the rest of your life.