The Maclean Family Law Group of British Columbia has a terrific article on preparing for divorce on its website. This law firm has one of the best taglines I have ever seen for a divorce and family law firm: ("We Can’t Protect Your Heart, But We Can Protect Your Rghts"). Many of the terms in the original post are tailored for Canadian law, and the changes or omissions are indicated in the bracketed material below:
A little pre-divorce planning can go a long way towards making the divorce itself run more smoothly as well as providing you with additional protection. Remember knowledge is power particularly in divorce proceedings. Doing your own homework can also save you money in legal fees. Here are some tips that you might want to download and keep handy:
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 [. . .].
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.
[. . .]PENSION PLAN: Obtain [. . .] Pension Plan statements [and Social Security statements and 401(k) 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 [. . .].
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 [. . .] 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.
SOURCE: Maclean Family Law Group