In my last post, I discussed the possible effects a divorce may have on your estate planning, specifically the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs) that snap into place as soon as your dissolution is filed. Among other things, ATROs restrict your ability to take certain financial actions (for instance estate planning affecting your family) before your divorce is finalized. So what steps can you take before filing to protect your right to engage in estate planning free from the ATROs? 

The best course of action may in fact be consulting an estate planning attorney before filing the dissolution with your family law attorney. The events leading to the divorce may be extremely emotionally charged, and while that may inspire a sense of urgency, it’s crucial to understand exactly where you currently stand financially, and make necessary changes before your control is compromised. 

If there was ever a time to compile a comprehensive snapshot of your finances, this is it. Collect as much information as you can about your own affairs and assets shared with your spouse. Obtain the most current statement for as many financial accounts as possible. Review any estate planning documents and deeds related to property you own. A change or amendment to an estate planning document may require signatures from both you and your spouse (which may arouse suspicion, and understandably so), but find out as much as you can about the contents of those documents.

Furthermore, ask yourself if it makes the most sense to file right now, as opposed to six months or a year down the line, and discuss this with your attorney as well. Spousal support laws change drastically once a couple has been married 10 years; if you’re close to that benchmark, does it make sense to wait until it passes? Or, if you are the payor, should you pull the trigger soon to avoid it? What is the housing market like right now? Are you currently paying off debt? Even if you want to dissolve your marriage as soon as possible, asking these questions paints a clearer picture of your financial options post-separation.  

Dissolving a marriage is one of the most emotionally charged choices you can make, but you must be willing to view it as a business decision as well. If you and your spouse share a great deal of assets, the worse course of action may be filing the dissolution right away without thinking it through completely. There are numerous financial and disclosure concerns that will become exponentially more difficult to deal with once proceedings begin. 

Make sure you consult an experienced attorney regarding the best time to file a marital dissolution action in order to protect your legal rights.