Divorcing But Still In The Same House - Essential Preparations
This article is written primarily for men, because they are frequently kicked out of the house by being served with a restraining order. With no warning or chance to pack, these men find themselves on the street with no access to their possessions or records.
The following is best done without letting your wife know that you are doing it. It is not unethical or wrong to do any of it, but if she sees you preparing like this she may do something drastic to keep you from gaining a level playing field.
When your spouse isn't home, go through all of the files. Take out tax returns, pay stubs, mortgage paperwork, car titles, insurance papers, birth certificates, medical bills, everything that you could possibly need and make copies. Place a copy of these documents in a safe place away from the home. Add in a business suit and enough cash to live on for a while. Don't forget any prescription medications you need. Also include anything you really want to keep in/after the divorce. You are more than likely going to be removed from the house forcibly with only a few minutes to pack, if that. If you use personal tools at work, make sure you keep them there, not at home.
Get a PO box and start switching your mail over to the PO Box. Open your own separate checking account at a different bank than you have now. Switch your direct deposit to the new account. I would say to transfer any investment accounts, retirement accounts, or other accounts that are yours alone to a different bank, but that makes it look to a judge like you are trying to hide assets. Instead, just contact the bank and see if they can lock the accounts so that you need a special PIN or ID to make withdrawals. Apply for all the credit lines you can get. You will need them for legal expenses and your credit report is about to go rapidly downhill. You get much better interest rates now than you will later.
Get a video camera and walk through every room of the house, plus the garage and any storage you have. Open cabinets and drawers and get pictures of their contents. Make sure you get everything so you can construct an inventory of everything the two of you own. Quicken includes a home inventory program that will help you to list everything and place a value on it. This helps with negotiations during the divorce. Don't expect a 50/50 split. Whoever gets the kids usually gets just about everything else, too.
Talk to an attorney now! Take your time and select a good one (see Tips for Getting Started for articles on finding, selecting, and working with an attorney). There is no substitute for a good attorney in court, but you are better off representing yourself than going with a poor or disinterested attorney.
Document! Document! Document! Keep track of everything you do, everywhere you go, and who you have contact with. Mark down every time you do the dishes, do laundry, buy groceries, help the children with homework, or do other things for or with the children. You will need to be able to show that you are an involved father. If the mother is gone a lot make sure you document that, too.