The uncoupling process is much more involved than just dividing assets and finding a new place to live. It is important to remember that a marriage is a legal contract. During the process of dissolving that contract, there are an endless number of details that need to be worked out, including some surprises that catch people off guard.
While the divorce is pending,
According to a recent article, the most common surprises include:
No transfer of property or closing of accounts: Even if you are trying to cover legal fees, you cannot sell the house or a car without permission of the other spouse or court order. All finances are essentially on pause in order to keep the status quo. This means that credit card accounts cannot be changed and, generally speaking, can only be used to pay for reasonable and necessary expenses like groceries, clothes for school or gas. In some cases, this can include legal fees. The purpose of this financial “freeze” is to ensure that the parties do not unnecessarily allocate or deplete marital or other funds so that there can be a full accounting and division of assets and accounts.
Children may not be able to travel without joint agreement: This includes visits to the grandparents or summer camp. Generally speaking, the court may be cautious about children traveling out of the state or out of the country. In some cases, there may be a concern that the parent may take them out of the country and stay there, thus not allowing the other parent access to their children. However, the court does encourage consistency for the children. Life should be able to continue pretty much as usual, including already planned or regular travel plans. It is important to get the consent of the other parent or the court if you cannot agree with the other parent. It is always recommended that any agreements between the parties be done in writing and filed with the court.
Insurance stays the same: While you may want to make changes to a life insurance policy, stop paying for a spouse’s car insurance, or just get them off your pricey health insurance plan, without the consent of the other party or an order of the court, this cannot be done until after the divorce is finalized.
You may need or want to file taxes jointly: It is wise to discuss taxes with your family law attorney and/or an accountant to discuss potential liability. Couples not yet divorced can file jointly, or they can file separately as married, but until the divorce decree is signed, they cannot file single.
It is best to check with your lawyer
Divorce is a major life change. But even when functioning with the best of intentions, any change can cause problems if the divorce isn’t finalized. With this is mind, it is always wise to check with your divorce attorney before you make any major decisions or changes.