If you're thinking of calling me for the first time, then I'm guessing your head is spinning. You have that uncomfortable feeling that you have to do something, but you don't know what. It's maddening.
So let me reassure you. As long as you're not in physical danger in your home (and, if you are, then I really want to talk with you right away), there is nothing that you absolutely have to do right at this moment. Just breathe. There is a process to these things -- a beginning, a middle and an end, and I know how to get you from start to finish.
So, let's take it one step at a time.
When I first speak to a potential client, I make sure to hit these three tasks. Put these on your to-do list. No, you don't have to do them immediately. But, whether it is with me or someone else, you will have a head start when you first meet with a divorce lawyer if you've already completed these tasks.
A snapshot only. This does not need to be a precise itemization or inventory of everything you own. Just a broad-brush list of your income sources, assets and debt.
If you think you don't know (maybe because your spouse pays all the bills and you don't even know where the checkbook is), then you likely at least know where you do your banking. If you don't, take a look around the house for bank statements. Or, look at copies of your tax returns for the names of any banks or other financial institutions. Get a small notebook (that you can keep with you) to start recording information. Jot down the names of those banks. That's enough to give you a good start down the road if you need to subpoena records.
You can also obtain a free copy of your credit report here. This will tell you the names of banks that you use and the credit or charge card debt that is held in your name.
Sometimes it makes sense to open your own bank account (that your spouse does not have access to.) And, sometimes it makes even further sense to redirect the deposit of your paycheck (or a portion of your paycheck) to that new bank account. Sometimes it doesn't.
For instance, if you and your spouse have a joint checking account into which you have always deposited your checks and from which you have always paid your bills -- and if that pattern of deposits and payments has not changed -- then leave it alone. Don't make any bank account changes yet, even if you and your spouse are living separately.
On the other hand, if those patterns start to change, then it is probably time to open a new bank account in your own name and begin separating your finances.
If you're not making any changes right now, keep your eyes on those accounts. If you don't have online access set up through your bank, do that now so that you can check your accounts frequently.
Custody disputes usually involve parents disagreeing about the weekly parenting schedule, or at least that is the "big domino" in contested custody cases. Once we knock that issue over, everything else usually falls into place.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to begin to set the "status quo" of weekly parenting time that is best for your children-- meaning, the pattern that you and your spouse follow with your children. And, keep a reliable record of that weekly parenting schedule.
Get that notebook out daily and write down the days when you are with the children and when your spouse is with the children, and also to write down significant events that occur (missed parenting time, et cetera.) If you do ultimately have to relay this information to the judge in your case, your testimony will be more credible when it is supported by a contemporaneous and detailed record.
Do not list the house for sale. Do not refinance the house. And, please, do not move out of your house (unless there is a safety issue, of course.)
Remember, you’re just gathering information here, you're not committing yourself to doing anything else. Your future self will thank you for it.
I go into detail on these and other issues in my free online course -- The Road Map through Your Divorce, Custody or Support Case. You can access the course by clicking here.
And if we haven't connected by phone yet, then let’s talk. Click here to gain direct access to my calendar to schedule an initial complimentary call with me. Take care until then.
Then you should access Janie's free course, where she will show you the what, when, how and how much of divorce, custody and support cases in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts. Plus, you'll have access to Janie anytime you have questions.