Many lawyers do not offer divorce planning because people do not see it as being a very honest way of approaching things. The concept is that you can anticipate an event that will occur well in advance of it happening, which may be illegal. In California, a husband and wife have fiduciary duties to each other, they are treated like business partners under the law. The law took all relevant rules that applies to a business and profession code and applied to the family code. Therefore, a husband and wife are not supposed to lie to each other, or steal from one another, and they share everything and disclose everything to one another as partners. This implies even if you are doing a divorce planning and being somewhat secretive about it, you need to meet your fiduciary duties which cannot be violated while you are divorce planning.
Usually divorce planning focuses on financial planning as it is a financial plan, or a set of recommendations being made to the client to better manage certain portions of their finances without breach of duties. This is done to ensure that by the time they go through a divorce they are not in as bad a financial shape as they would have been without the plan.
When determining spousal support, a judge will look at the standard of living of the couple for the previous 2 to 5 years. If the couple is used to having the biggest house on the block, the latest cars, or buying expensive dinners, in divorce planning the spouse would be advised to slowly adjust the amount of money they are spending in anticipation of the divorce.
Income is another component the judge will look at. Hence, delicately, the spouse will take certain actions to adjust their income. For example, they may be working overtime to keep a certain standard of life and they would be advised to rethink the amount of hours they are working before they are forced to continue doing so after their divorce.
Another example is having debts that are not in writing, say a spouse borrowed money from their sister. During divorce planning they will be advised to have a signed document proving the debt. Another good reason for divorce planning is to run a hypothetical divorce and find what sort of financial situation one will be if they had a divorce presently. That is if the numbers provided are correct and if they were in a divorce today, this is the amount of money they would have to pay in spousal support, child support, attorney’s fees, what will most likely happen to their pension, savings, and more.
The above assumes the person who is inquiring about divorce planning earns more than their spouse. However, what if the person who is inquiring earns less and has limited control over the funds? They cannot easily increase their standard of living and the other party is not very likely to fully disclose all their financial assets.
Divorce planning will be a set of recommendations to prepare for this event by taking several steps including: taking a snapshot of the couple’s financial situation so that later on when the divorce is filed and the other spouse wants to be dishonest they can be caught because we would have the proof.
Our divorce lawyers work with forensic companies that work with the District Attorney, they will take a digital snapshot of computers and every digital storage device where important information may be hidden. For example, a business owner may want to go and change their profit and loss statement. Having a digital copy of the original document can be prove they were tampered with. Similar to the above example a good reason for divorce planning is to run a hypothetical divorce and find what sort of financial situation one will be if they had a divorce presently. That is if the numbers provided are correct and if they were in a divorce today, this is the amount of money they would have to “receive” in spousal support, child support, attorney’s fees, what will most likely happen to their pension, savings, and more.
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