There was a lot of speculation that the number of divorce filings would skyrocket in the earliest weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns forced couples to spend more time together and limited their exposure the outside world. Spouses who were already not getting along faced increased stress from unemployment, financial hardship, homeschooling, and many other factors. Recent statistics reveal that the speculation did, in fact, turn into reality: There was a 34-percent spike in couples seeking divorce from March through June 2020, compared to the same time period in 2020. Of these, almost one-third admitted that lockdown caused irreparable harm to their marriage.
Whether or not your reasons for contemplating divorce are COVID-19 related, you owe it to yourself to prepare for the process. One of your first steps should be by retaining a Florida divorce attorney to protect your interests, but there are a few tasks that you can start checking off your list now.
- Gather All Financial and Legal Records: Make it a priority to collect and make copies of all documents related to legal and financial matters, such as:
- Deeds to real estate;
- Titles to vehicles;
- Tax Records;
- Bank account statements;
- Pension and retirement details;
- Prenuptial agreements, if any;
- Investment account information; and,
- Many other relevant documents.
In addition, you should obtain a copy of your credit report to monitor any unusual activity. You can request one from Experian, and several other companies, for free.
- Itemize All Non-Marital Property: One of the key issues in a divorce is how to divvy up marital property under Florida’s statute on equitable distribution. As such, you must first make a list of what you and your spouse acquired during the marriage, and make a separate list of what you, personally, owned before the wedding date. Write down every item, no matter how trivial or nominal the value.
- Determine How to Handle Marital Debts: Florida’s equitable distribution statute also applies to debts incurred during your marriage. However, you need to address how they will be paid, temporarily, while the divorce process takes it course. You do not want to affect your credit rating by falling behind or having accounts go into collections. If you cannot reach a temporary agreement with your spouse, your attorney can bring these issues to the attention of the court.
- Make Changes to Estate Planning and Related Documents: A divorce, typically, voids any bequests you make to your estranged spouse in a will. However, there are scenarios in which your spouse may still take under your will, depending on how it was worded. It’s a wise idea to consult with a qualified wills and estates atorney to update your will. Some ideas are:
- Modifying any durable power of attorney that gives your spouse control over property and financial matters;
- Removing your spouse as the executor of your will;
- Changing your Designation of Health Care Surrogate, if it appoints your spouse as agent; and,
- Updating your designated beneficiaries on life insurance policies.
Get Legal Help from an Experienced Divorce Attorney in Tampa, FL
Proper preparation puts you in a solid position when it comes to Florida divorce, but working with knowledgeable legal counsel is also an essential step in the process. For more information on how our team can assist with your case, please contact Strategic Family Law. We can schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.