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How To Protect Yourself Financially If You Are Considering Divorce Or Separation

Lorne MacLean of the MacLean Family Law Group whose website is at www.bcfamilylaw.ca enjoys providing the public with free legal information and lauds Judge Brownstone and producer Nancy Kinney for their important work in democratizing the law and bringing important information to people who are facing the stormy seas of marriage breakdown with their outstanding legal reality show FAMILY MATTERS TV. MacLean is in high demand as a speaker and author of numerous articles on family and divorce law. Here is MacLean's very popular article on protecting yourself before and during a divorce or marriage breakdown. If you have questions he can be reached at lorne@bcfamilylaw.ca .

If you are considering or are at the start of a marriage breakdown or separation you need to take immediate steps to protect yourself and the first thing you should do is contact a good family attorney and spend 30 minutes or more with them getting a summary of your basic rights and obligations. We feel the initial consultation is likely the most important part of starting a case and likely the best money you can spend early on in a case. People have so many misconceptions and can accept or make unfair offers based on anecdotal opinions from well meaning but often "legally clueless" friends and family members.

MAIL: Review all mail coming into your house and make a list of the sender and return address. It is very important to know the address of stockbrokers, insurance companies, credit issuers, banks, and revenue properties, COPY THESE DOCUMENTS.

PERSONAL MATTERS: Have your mail sent to an address other than the Matrimonial Home for your privacy and to ensure that you receive it. For example, a post office box or home of a close friend or relative. File a change of address notice with the post office.

FAMILY FINANCES: Review all monthly bank statements and brokerage statements, credit card statements, property assessments, and COPY THESE DOCUMENTS. Give copies of necessary documents to your lawyer for safekeeping.

TAX RETURN: Review all tax returns that have been filed by you and your spouse. Demand an explanation as to any item, which may be questionable before signing. Make complete copies of tax returns for the last several years.

TAXES OWED: Be certain that all taxes owed to the Federal Government or other taxing agencies are paid to date. IF NOT COPY NOTICES OF ASSESSMENT.

SAFE DEPOSIT BOX: Inventory and review the contents of any safe deposit box. List the contents including cash and jewelry. Be sure that all safe deposit boxes are in joint names. TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS AND COPIES OF THE CONTENTS.

BUSINESS INTERESTS: Be familiar with your spouse’s business interests. Become involved and be aware of financial information regarding the business by getting full information on the business, including bank documents, loan applications, corporate tax returns and financial statements.

MATRIMONIAL ASSETS: Do not transfer, sign, or make a gift of marital assets in joint names. Credit cards in joint names may discourage large personal purchases by one party. Conversely, you may wish to cancel credit cards to prevent large purchases by your spouse without your permission.

PENSION PLANS: Obtain copies of your pension plan and your spouse’s also with any yearly statements and determine when they vest and benefits become payable, ask for the plan booklets and latest contribution statements. These documents will be useful if you file for divorce in BC.

WILLS AND TRUSTS: Obtain copies of any wills or trust agreements and be involved in any estate planning.

LOANS: Review and make copies of all loan documents, mortgage applications, and financial statements.

SIGNATURE: Do not sign any financial statements if blank. Know what you are signing and always keep a copy.

MEDICAL: Have a complete medial and dental check up. Be sure that you have medical and dental insurance (if available) in the event of separation.

CANADA PENSION PLAN: Obtain Canada Pension Plan statements.

SAVINGS AND PERSONAL FINANCES: Separation generally causes immediate economic hardship. Put away cash or keep money in traveler’s checks in order to be able to purchase personal necessities in the event of a divorce.

AUTOMOBILE: Be sure that your automobile is in good working condition and that it is titled jointly or in your sole name.

INSURANCE: Review and make copies of all insurance policies relating to the matrimonial residence furnishings, or other assets. This should include any jewelry, silverware, or other valuable. Make copies of any appraisal that have been prepared. These documents will be useful if you file for divorce in BC.

INDEBTEDNESS: Do not create any additional debts and make no large purchases such as a new boat or car. Keep your assets as liquid as possible.

LIABILITY: Prepare a complete list of all debts or obligations including credit cards, notes, mortgages, etc. Identify each debts, when it was incurred and the reason for the debt. Identify who has been making payments on them, as well as the monthly or annual amounts.

ASSETS: Prepare a complete list of all assets in your name and your spouse’s. These documents will be useful if you ever file for divorce in BC. Include whether the assets are held individually or jointly and the source of the assets, whether inherited, gifted, or in the name of a third party on your behalf. It is important to determine whether the assets were acquired prior to or during the marriage. Make copies of any documents which show the details and values of all assets and debts.

INHERITANCES: Keep all inheritances separate from the marital estate. Do not put an inheritance into joint names and do not use proceeds to pay for family expenses or purchases or to pay down debts.

EMPLOYMENT: Do not quit work if you are employed. It is important to secure your future financial independence and earn enough to maintain assets such as your home and car.

RESIDENCE: DO NOT MOVE OUT of the family residence without first discussing it with your lawyer.

Category: Episodes

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Sep 27 2011 8:32 PM


  • Joe Schoettler said

    Actuallly, these are good recommendations for EVERYBODY, even in the happiest marriage. Don't wait for divorce to be involved in your own life. Also, most of these tips apply to Texas just as much as a Canadian jurisdiction.

  • Tom bleakley said

    I have a question. My wife has informed me that she has had a change in her feelings towards me. I was planning to move out of the house to give her some time to think. I was going to stay with friends for 1 month. Is this a bad idea if we end up getting a divorce?

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