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Pasco County

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Your Ultimate Divorce Planner – First Steps

Divorce Worksheet

Your Ultimate Divorce Planner – First Steps

After you’ve made the decision to divorce, you’re probably wondering what the following stages will be. The truth is that your journey is only getting started, and to get the best potential divorce outcome you need to be educated and prepared. You may become fatigued while browsing the internet for solutions, only to feel more perplexed than when you started. We understand this, which is why, based on our decades of divorce law experience, we’ve created our most comprehensive divorce checklist to help you stay focused on what’s important.  

Before we begin, here are a few important reminders:

First, never threaten divorce unless you are prepared to file. While you may be eager to start your new life, it is critical that you delay filing until you have completed some of the crucial steps outlined below.

If you’ve been served with divorce papers, don’t sign anything until you’ve been appropriately advised of your rights and entitlements. Your spouse has most likely been preparing this for a long time, and you deserve time to catch up on how things will be divided and what is fair for you. Don’t agree to anything under duress. Duress is a tactic used by some spouses to ensure that the process moves quickly, so quickly that your rights get bulldozed in the process.  

If you are dealing with abuse, do not start with the list below. Instead, consult an attorney, and get safe.

Here is a holistic approach to supporting you — and the wise measures to follow — for individuals ready to start the work of being educated and putting their plan into action.

First Steps. – Divorce Planning Worksheet

1. Start By Obtaining A Free Credit Report.

Check it for any errors or open accounts you may not be aware of. This will also inspire you to begin monitoring your credit score. You may need to work on improving your credit score so you can rent an apartment, qualify for a mortgage, or start building your own financial identity separate from your spouse. Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion can provide you with a free copy of your most recent credit report. Other services will show you a combined report, like

2. Open A New Bank Checking And Savings Account In Your Name

Go to a bank that neither you nor your spouse now uses (this avoids misunderstandings between names and accounts). We also recommend that you utilize a large institutional bank to take advantage of the bank’s different supplementary services and professionals, such as mortgage specialists or qualified divorce financial analysts and planners, who can assist you in establishing your independence. This is all about developing your financial identity, NOT hiding funds. Hiding funds is illegal.

3. Get A Credit Card In Your Name Only.

This is another step toward establishing personal credit. Investigate the best credit card for your needs. Consider one that pays rewards in cash or with money deposited into your savings account.

4. Make A List Of Assets. Both Yours Individually And As A Couple.

Don’t forget frequently overlooked assets like airline miles, bonuses, or reward points. Also, list any inheritances received before and during the marriage.

You should obtain the most recent statement for each asset and keep track of account numbers.

Documents that you can’t keep in your possession (perhaps uncovering your plans prematurely) should be photocopied or recorded using your phone’s camera.

5. Make A List Of All Your Debts, Both Personal Debts And Joint Debts.

Remember to include educational and personal loans and a list of anybody who owes you money, how much they owe you, and when they’re due to pay you back.

Gather a current debt statement and compile a list of all debts since the separation (if it has already occurred.)

Documents that you can’t keep in your possession (perhaps uncovering your plans prematurely) should be photocopied or recorded using your phone’s camera.

6. Monitor The Status Of Marital Debt.

marital debt

Most states’ divorce laws hold you and your spouse jointly liable for each other’s debts.

Keep an eye out to see if your spouse is overspending. (You can set up notifications for large purchases or withdrawals on your accounts.)

If your soon-to-be-ex goes on a spending spree that you weren’t expecting, talk to a lawyer about what you can do to limit your liability.

7. Gather The Tax Returns For The Last Three Years.

If you can’t find yours, ask the IRS for your transcripts or report (the latter is more expensive, but it’s what a lawyer would want to assess). Also, be wary of the IRS mailing reports to your legal home address. Will your spouse be the first to receive the mail?

It’s not uncommon to be unable to access financial documents. When you meet with the divorce lawyer to discuss your situation (see below), you will explain what you know and ask the lawyer what happens when one spouse is unaware of the financial aspects of the divorce. (It happens more often than you think!)

8. Gather Passwords For All Financial Accounts That You Have Access To.

You may need to access information in your financial accounts, so have your passwords handy.

9. Increase The Size Of Or Contribute To Your Emergency Fund.

Everyone should have an emergency fund.  Right now however, it’s critical to save money by setting as much you can aside. You never know when you’ll need to reach for it.

10. If You’re A Stay-At-Home Parent (SAHP), Make Sure Your Emergency Fund Has Three Months Of Financial Reserves.


If you are a spouse with few resources, make sure you have enough money saved to cover three months of spending. During a divorce, it is not uncommon for the wealthy spouse to financially isolate the less affluent spouse. (One of the questions you’ll ask a lawyer concerns temporary spousal support. (See #19.)

11. List Your Monetary And Non-Monetary Contributions To The Marriage.

Some gifts may be legally significant and particularly beneficial to you.

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