1. Keep really good records, specially going into the marriage.
Even if you don’t plan on getting divorced (most people never do when they walk down the aisle!), you should hold onto those pre-marriage bank statements. If a spouse comes into a marriage with $100,000 in stocks, it’s his burden to show that he acquired them before the marriage. This can be challenging. We deal with evidence and proof in the court room. It’s also his burden to show he didn’t contribute martial funds into those accounts. Without the necessary documentation to prove that something was yours and didn’t get mixed with other marital assets, it’s at the very least going to have to be disclosed during the divorce case.
2. Divorce takes a long time and money.
Weddings are known for their crazy price tags, and it can cost a decent amount to undo those nuptials. So if you’re going in with any doubts, think things through carefully. People can expect to pay between $300 and $500 an hour in this area. There are some [divorce] cases that can cost $5,000 or $15,000 if they are settled quickly [like my firm]. And there are some that can cost many multiples of that. Of course, every situation is different, but it could take a year or more to finalize your divorce.
3. You don’t get everything because he cheated.
Wanting to take him to the cleaners would be normal, but you probably won’t be able to. In most states, marital misconduct, like an affair, does not entitle the innocent spouse to more assets. In California, you are always seeing TMZ stating the traditional irreconcilable differences as the basis for a divorce. That is because you don’t have to have a reason to divorce in California. The money and property will be divided according to equitable distribution [50% in California]. That said, you might be able to get more money in alimony, depending on the way the finances work out. But, don’t hold your breath.
4. Divorce comes with a mourning period.
People are often surprised by the sense of loss, even if they are eager to start a new life. Change can often be unsettling. At the very least, people go from married to divorced (although there are many steps in between) and that alters one’s self-concept and how others relate to you. You should always finalize your divorce before taking on a new relationship.
5. Pre-nups aren’t really necessary.
Let me say this up front. I don’t like pre-nups. In fact, they can cause harm. I find pre-nups almost always come about where one party springs it on the other just weeks or days before the marriage. In California there is a minimum time period for presenting a pre-nup and the marriage. A pre-nup is almost always coercive, one-sided, emotionally damaging and destructive. Plus, there are usually laws in place to protect both parties anyway. If one or both of you is insistent on having something drawn up, consider doing it well before the wedding.
Dieter Zacher, Esq.