If you haven't been through a divorce, it's likely you know someone who has. The emotional toll on the separating couple, their children, and family in general can be severe. Some separations are amicable but many are not. The end of a relationship has the potential to bring out the worst in couples and there are few life events capable of wreaking more financial havoc than a divorce.
Kristine Young, a family law attorney with Mayer & Young in Sacramento, California shared some of her insight regarding the initiation of divorce proceedings. Young explained “It can be very confusing to start the legal process. The autonomy that each spouse previously enjoyed with regard to financial decisions is greatly affected when a dissolution or legal separation proceeding begins.
At the onset of the case, Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders go into effect to make sure the status quo remains during the divorce process. These orders are in place to protect both parties, but, can be confusing for someone who has previously had control of the finances without restriction.”
The Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders protect both parties while the divorce process is pending and prohibit each spouse from:
- Cancelling or removing the other from an existing health insurance policy
- Cashing out a retirement account
- Taking out loans on the community property (for example, a home equity line of credit or 2nd mortgage on a family residence)
- Removing all of the funds from a joint investment or bank account
This isn't to say that all financial activities are frozen. Financial obligations continue despite the beginning of a divorce. Young points out that couples can reach agreements that allow them to act without the restriction of the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders and can include:
- Getting your own cell phone plan
- Acquiring independent car insurance policies
- Enrolling in independent health coverage
While it's perfectly reasonable to work these matters out together and come to an agreement, be careful. Young advised, “It's extremely important to memorialize these agreements in writing to ensure that expectations are clear and to protect the parties from potential court sanctions.” Regardless, seeking legal guidance is still advised. Divorce is a confusing legal process combined with all of the emotions that come with the end of a relationship. There are significant legal and financial pitfalls to avoid whether you are proceeding amicably or in litigation.
Please remember this should not be considered legal advice. Be sure to consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. For more family law information, visit the Mayer & Young website or call (916) 631-1996. Kristine Young is also on LinkedIn.
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