It’s often a difficult and heartbreaking experience to decide to divorce your spouse, especially if the marriage produced children. It often takes several months or years of contemplation before coming to the conclusion that divorce may ultimately present more benefits than staying married. If you have children with your spouse and are seeking to divorce in Houston, here are 5 tips to protect yourself and your children.
Get the Best Legal Advice You Can Get
During a divorce, each spouse should have his or her own legal representation. If you’re not sure who to work with, you should speak with several attorneys about your unique situation before you select one. You will want to hire the best lawyer you can afford to protect your interests during the entire process. A competent divorce attorney, like those with our Houston law firm, will provide you with:
- Extensive information about the laws that pertain to your particular situation so you can make sound decisions.
- Peace of mind knowing that an experienced divorce lawyer is protecting your interests.
- Your lawyer will explain your rights and understand how to interpret statutes. He or she will have the experience necessary to complete crucial documents correctly.
- Your lawyer will have experience settling or using an alternative dispute method to help you avoid a trial. He or she should also be comfortable litigating a contested divorce.
- When there’s a history of domestic violence, child abuse, or a power imbalance, it can be impossible to negotiate fairly without representation.
- During this stressful experience, a lawyer will help you make the right choices so that you and your children can have a better future.
Keep Child Custody in Your Favor
If you know that you’re getting a divorce in Houston, it’s a good idea to start documenting how much time you and your spouse spend with your children. This will make it more likely that the court will grant custody fairly. Consider recording:
- What activities you do with your kids
- Which spouse helps them with homework?
You should be able to prove to the court that you’re as much as or more a part of your child’s life than your spouse. Document any negative incidents between your spouse and your children, like threats or inappropriate behavior. Stay in the home unless there’s a threat of violence until the court issues custody orders.
The court will want to decide agreements like child custody in a way that protects the children’s best interests. They should have a picture of how each spouse interacts with their children to decide the best custody arrangement.
Keep Copies of Financial Records and Inventory Personal Belongings
Copies of your financial records provide vital information for your attorney. Consider handing copies of the following during your first meeting with your Houston divorce lawyer:
- The last 3 years of tax returns
- Bank statements
- Documents for shared debts
You should also catalog marital property and any items of monetary or sentimental value. Make a copy of the inventory for yourself and your spouse. Place your copies in a secure location only you can access.
Protect Your Bank Account
Although this does not happen in all divorce cases, it’s not uncommon for an angry spouse to clean out a shared bank account. Protect yourself by:
- Withdrawing half of the balance of all shared accounts, so long as you can prove you’re entitled to it. Then, deposit the money into a new account.
- Informing your spouse that you have taken your share from all joint accounts.
- Informing your spouse that you plan on canceling all shared credit cards. Your spouse could decide to make excessive charges and leave you with half of the debt. You can avoid this by canceling these joint accounts early.
Open Yourself Up to Support from Family and Friends
During this challenging time, it often helps to accept help from family and friends who care about you. Having a support system helps people going through divorce recover physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you can’t count on friends or relatives nearby, join a support group for people experiencing divorce or seek therapy to fight isolation. This is a significant transition in your life that will have a direct impact on your future.
Houston Divorce Lawyers Dedicated to Protecting Your Rights
At Stepp & Sullivan, PC, we have more than 70 years of combined legal experience in family law to help you navigate the challenges divorce presents. We offer compassionate and client-focused representation. Call (713) 336-7200 or complete our contact form for a consultation.