How to Prepare for Divorce: 10 Important Steps to Take

How to Prepare for DivorceDivorce can be a stressful, confusing, and time-consuming process. If your marriage isn’t working out and divorce is on the horizon, you may be wondering how to prepare for divorce. Here are the ten most important steps to take to make sure you protect yourself before things hit the fan.

1. Consult a Divorce Attorney

Consult an attorney to learn about your legal responsibilities and rights. For instance, while it may seem helpful to take your children and move to your parents house until your divorce is final, from a legal standpoint, moving out of the family home, even temporarily, could be a big mistake.

2. Make Copies of Documents

Make copies of all your household files, including the following:

  • Tax returns
  • Check registers
  • Bank statements
  • Financial statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Social Security documents
  • Retirement account statements
  • Handbooks for employee benefits
  • Mortgage documents
  • Car loans and titles
  • Investment statements
  • Life insurance policies
  • Wills

Also, if your spouse is self-employed, gather all the information you can about his or her business’s finances. Copy all financial data stored and backed up on your home computer.

3. Inventory Family and Household Possessions

All divorces require splitting up the martial property. Because of this, you must account for all your assets. List all your major family and household items, including:

  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Artwork
  • Jewelry
  • Automobiles
  • Family heirlooms

Don’t forget to inventory storage areas and storage units, as well as valuables in a safe or deposit box.

4. Know Your Household Expenses and Budget

Analyze your check register for the previous year and take note of every utility, mortgage, and other monthly household expenditures. You should also monitor your daily cash spending to help you determine your monthly cash expenditures as well.

5. Figure Out Your Family Debt

If possible, figure out your family debt and try to pay that debt down before you enter divorce. One of the most difficult aspects to divorce negotiations is allocation of marital debt. If you can pay that debt off before divorce, then you’ll eliminate that burden from negotiations. Also, track the date the debt was incurred and the spouse it belongs to. If you find debt incurred from your spouse before the date of marriage, then that “non-marital debt” will only belong to that spouse.

6. Figure Out Your Spouse’s Income

Typically, figuring out your spouse’s income is as easy as looking at their pay stub. However, if your spouse owns a business, is self-employed, or receives cash for their income, make sure to take note of the money flowing in for a few months.

7. Determine Your Earning Potential

If you’ve been devoting yourself to childbearing and have been unemployed for a while, assess your current employability to figure out your earning potential. Also, determine if furthering your education before your divorce could benefit that earning potential.

8. Analyze Your Credit History

If you don’t have any credit cards that are in your own name, then apply for them as soon as possible and use them to establish credit history. Also, make sure to pay off any creditors to improve your credit rating if you have a low credit score.

9. Start Saving Money

You will need money to pay off bills, if your spouse moves out, until a temporary support order is established. You also need money for a retainer if you’re the one filing for divorce. Start saving money as soon as possible.

10. Make Your Children Your Priority

Stay involved in your children’s lives, including their school, sports, and social activities. Also be sure to keep their routines normal. Create a schedule where both you and your spouse can spend alone time with your children. Your children should be at the top of your agenda.

A Divorce Attorney Can Advise You on How to Prepare for Divorce

It’s important to be aware of any potential issues you might face in a divorce. To learn more about how to prepare for divorce, contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.

Changing a Child’s Last Name After a Divorce

changing a child's last nameUsually, changing a child’s last name after a divorce is not too difficult. To begin the process, all you need to do is download a few basic forms for free from your county court’s website. However, keep in mind that a judge will only approve a proposed name change if it serves the best interest of your child. If your spouse objects to the proposed name change, then you will need to defend your proposal in front of a judge. Depending upon the facts you present during your contested hearing, your proposed name change may be declined.

Learn about what steps are involved in changing your child’s last name below.

“Best Interests of the Child” Standard

Again, a court will only approve a change in your child’s last name if it serves in the child’s best interest. Unfortunately, proving this “best interests of the child” standard is rather vague and applies on a case-by-case basis. While some circumstances may seem more straightforward than others, most cases leave plenty of wiggle room for opposing opinions. If you need help proving that a change in your child’s last name will serve in their best interests, consult a divorce attorney.

When Is a Judge More Likely to Approve a Name Change?

A judge is more likely to approve a child’s change in last name under the following situations. When:

  • Both parents submit a petition together (whether married or not)
  • A parent submits a petition and the other parent doesn’t object after notification
  • A parent submits a petition and the other parent has abandoned the child or cannot be found

For situations where both parents submit a petition together, the court will almost always approve that request. The same is true whether the parents are currently a couple or not.

Likewise, if only the parent that submitted the proposal shows up in court, the judge will more than likely approve the petition. However, the petitioning parent must present evidence that the other parent was officially notified of the name change petition and has failed to appear.

When Is a Judge Less Likely to Approve a Name Change?

A judge will never grant a child’s name change petition without a hearing if both parents have maintained their relationships with the child. That doesn’t mean a judge won’t ultimately grant the proposed change–it means that the court needs to listen to both parent’s arguments before deciding what serves the child’s best interests. The court will consider the following factors when making its determination:

  • how long the child has used the current last name
  • how the change in name will affect both parent’s relationships to the child
  • the strength and status of both parent’s relationships to the child
  • the child’s need to identify under a new family unit by using a common name
  • the wishes of older children
  • other facts a judge deems important to the given case

A judge will balance the above factors in order to decide whether the change in child’s last name serves in the child’s best interest.

Notifying All Interested Parties

The court will require that you notify the other parent if you’re filing a child’s name change petition alone. The same is true whether you have sole custody of the child or not. If you’re the child’s legal guardian, you also must give notice to the child’s biological parents, or to the child’s grandparents if the child’s parents are no longer alive or are unknown. When deemed appropriate, a judge may wave this notification requirement. For instance, if a mother cannot locate a father who abandoned his child, or if one of the parent’s has a history of abuse.

Ask a Divorce Attorney About Changing a Child’s Last Name

To learn more about what the court will consider when changing a child’s last name after a divorce, contact a family law attorney at the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks.

Determining Who Gets to Stay in the House During Divorce

Who Gets to Stay in the House During DivorceYour home may not only be your most valuable asset, but you may also be emotionally invested in it. Because of this, determining who gets to stay in the house during divorce may be extremely difficult. Looking at the specific circumstances of your situation can help you determine that answer.

If you have questions about divorce, contact a divorce attorney at the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.

Comfort and Safety Should Be Your Primary Concern

If domestic violence occurs in your home, you need to take every necessary step to secure your safety. This includes obtaining a protective order from the court, as well as requesting a judge to order your abusive partner to move out. During this entire process, leaving your home temporarily is usually the safest thing you can do. If you have children and they are at risk of the abuse, you should also take them away from the home as well. However, make sure that you obtain a temporary custody order from the court as soon as possible. If you do not obtain this order, you can be accused of kidnapping. For best measure, consult your attorney if you’re in an abusive home and need to leave with your kids.

Even in situations that do not involve abuse, continuing to live with your spouse while going through divorce can be challenging. This can especially be hard on your children if you and your spouse engage in a lot of conflict. When considering to move, child custody and property issues will be front and center.

How Child Custody Factors Into the Issue

Because judges understand that continuous change is often difficult for children, they will attempt to maintain the status quo as much as possible. Often, while divorce proceedings occur, if children remain in the family home, then the parent currently living with them can argue that a change in this arrangement may be too disruptive. In contrast, the other parent can object to being penalized for moving out when it was in the best interests of the children to reduce any conflict in the home. To avoid such an issue, before any parent moves out, create a written agreement with your spouse that establishes a parenting schedule and agrees that by moving out the leaving parent isn’t giving up their rights.

Property and Financial Concerns

One of the most challenging aspects of divorce is stretching income to support two households. This is especially true in tough economic times. Sometimes, couples must continue to live together after divorce because they cannot afford to support an additional household.

The higher-earning spouse that moves out of the family home will also be expected to pay expenses of the previous household, including insurance and mortgage payments. Unfortunately, this often results in a less desirable living situation for the spouse that moves out. In comparison, the spouse that stays in the family home may end up giving property or money to off set the benefit of remaining in the home.

In the end, state laws mandate that martial property is divided equally and fairly in a divorce. This typically means that one spouse will get to keep the home, while the other spouse will receive a comparable value of money or other property.

Other Options

Here are some alternative short-term options that can help ease financial and parenting problems during a divorce. One option, called “bird-nesting”, allows parents to live in the family home with their children over alternating periods. In this option, parents rotate in and out of the house, while children remain. A second option is to divide up the house into separate occupancy areas. You can even create a schedule for use of any common areas.

Speak to a Fresno Divorce Lawyer

At the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks, we can help you through the difficult process of divorce. Contact us today.

How Child Support Is Determined

How Child Support Is DeterminedWhen awarding child support, the federal government mandates that states use consistent and predictable guidelines when determining the amount. Below, we give a brief rundown of the most common types of child support guidelines used throughout the country.

To learn more about how child support is determined by the courts, contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.


The court will consider both parents’ incomes when determining child support. Most states will look at the combined income of both parents and the percentage each parent contributes to make an accurate determination of the amount of child support needed. Keep in mind that some states use gross income to base their formula, while other states only use net income.


Most guidelines allow a parent already making alimony or child support payments from earlier arrangements to deduct the amount they’re currently paying from their income. However, in order to qualify for that deduction, the following two conditions must be met:

  1. The support payments need to be court-ordered (not voluntary)
  2. The parent needs to actually follow through with making the payments

Take note that you cannot take deductions form your income for the support of any subsequent children or spouses.

Childcare Expenses

Many states also consider the amount parents spend on childcare when they’re working or are looking for work. Furthermore, some states take into account the federal dependant care exemption, found on federal income taxes, to adjust the allowed amount for childcare expenses. Likewise, states providing a dependent care exemption on their state income tax forms allow a reflection of this adjusted amount.

Healthcare Expenses

All child support orders also require determining who will be paying for the child’s health insurance. The cost of the child’s health insurance will be added to the basic support order, as well as credited to the paying parent. Many guidelines also require an additional amount of support for covering out of pocket healthcare expenses. Some states take into consideration extraordinary medical expenses. These will factor into how child support is determined.

Other Expenses

In some cases, a basic support order may see an increase in order to account for unusual expenses. For example, your basic support order may include expenses for special education needs for handicapped or gifted children. Also, if visitation from one parent or a child requires travel expenses, the court will divide those expenses between both parents based on their incomes. In these types of situations, a non-custodial parent might receive a credit in the amount of the travel expense belonging to the custodial parent.

Shared Visitation and Custody

In order to determine the child support award amount, courts account for how much time a child spends with both parents. For example, the longer a child spends with a non-custodial parent, the more money that parent will need in order to support that child. Furthermore, in situations involving joint custody or extended visitation, the awarded amount of child support will more than likely be less than in situations involving sole custody and sparse visitation.

When determining the awarded amount of child support, states will utilize child support guidelines. These guidelines are presumed to award the correct amount of child support. However, you can obtain a lower or higher amount than what the guidelines determine. Such cases require that you get a judicial determination of any extenuating factors that necessitate deriving from the presumed guidelines.

Speak to a Child Support Lawyer to Learn More About How Child Support Is Determined

To learn more about how child support is determined, contact an experienced child support lawyer at the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks. We will help you figure out the correct child support payments required for your specific situation. Contact us today.