2. Discretely remove any of your important papers documents (e.g. your honorable discharge papers, naturalization papers, diplomas, love letters, etc.) to a safe place (a desk drawer at work, your parents’ or sibling’s house, a safe deposit box, etc.). It is good to have a copy of all of your bank account’s recent statements. It is good to know where your spouse keeps his/her own money (so the bank records can be requested or subpoenaed.
3. Get a safe deposit box and keep the key out of the house. You can put your important personal papers, mementos, tapes, photos, personal jewelry, etc., into it. Important point: You should realize that you will have to declare (for the Court’s discovery process) that you have such a box, and list what is in it. Your spouse’s personal property is his/hers and your property is yours. But there is joint marital property that will need to be inventoried and divided up fairly. You can argue later about what is joint marital property and what is yours, and what is pre-marital property. Just do the right thing by not using your safe deposit box to hide things to cheat your spouse out of what might be rightfully his/hers. All cash will have to be declared and taxes will have to be paid if you haven’t yet done so. The Judge may be obligated to inform the IRS if cash is not reported or if there is evidence of tax fraud. You cannot expect your attorney to participate in that either. On a related topic, you cannot expect the Judge to believe your monthly budget is $8,000 ($96,000 per year) while you are only showing an annual income of $70,000 before taxes on your returns. Also parenthetically, in Discovery, you will have to list whatever photos and tapes and other documents you intend to utilize if the case goes to trial, and to provide copies to your adversary attorney.
4. If you have a joint checking/savings account, you cannot just wipe it out and take all the money for yourself. Whatever you take will have to be accounted for in the divorce and the bank statements will show all of the transactions, obviously. If you are in a State that equally divides the marital property, then for example, if there was $10,000 in an account and you took it all out, $5,000 belongs to your spouse and he/she will have to get a credit for that amount at the time of settlement or trial. In many cases, a judge will order that you return it all now unless you can show that you only took your half and left half for the other party. Keep receipts and recent bank statements. If you are the primary wage earner, you will most likely have to provide support (spousal and child) as well as mortgage and other house expenses before the divorce goes through, to maintain the status quo until things can get sorted out. You should not (and in many states you cannot) cancel health insurance, auto and homeowner’s insurance, life insurance, etc., without judicial permission. Don’t start out on the wrong foot by sending a message to the Judge that you are vindictive and trying to hurt your spouse. Especially provocative to the Judge will be the primary wage earner who tries to deprive the children of health care, child support and other necessary items.
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