What You Can and Can’t Do Before Filing for a Divorce

After a divorce is filed, all Ohio Courts issue what is called a mutual restraining order which prevents both parties from doing any of the following:

  1. Harassing and annoying one another;
  2. Canceling insurance policies;
  3. Taking the children out of the county;
  4. Giving away or selling marital assets;
  5. Changing beneficiaries;
  6. Taking out credit cards in the other person’s name;
  7. And other orders specific to your particular situation

Make Good Decisions That Won’t Backfire

What You Can and Cannot Do After Filing a Divorce

However, until the court issues a mutual restraining order, you or a spouse may have already taken or are planning to take steps to protect assets and save money. Some of these things are fine to do, others are pointless and a waste of time, and many will backfire and leave you vulnerable.
This is a major reason why it is of the utmost importance to discuss your options with an experienced divorce lawyer before taking any action that could waste your time or put you in a worse position regarding dividing marital assets.
The following are questions that I often times field from prospective clients who are contemplating divorce and want to take immediate action:

My Spouse and I have recently separated, and I would like to take him/her off my cell phone plan and car insurance plan. Can I do this?

Yes. Before a restraining order is issued, this is acceptable to do. Courts will hold what is referred to as a temporary orders hearing, which will determine how bills are to be paid during the divorce, whether or not a child or spousal support is appropriate, and who will be the residential parent and legal custodian of the minor children. If the parties are living separately or the Court orders one space to vacate the marital residence, the court will normally order each party to pay their own living expenses. These expenses usually consist of bills such as cell phone and vehicle expenses. However, after the divorce is filed and the restraining order is issued, this prevents either spouse from canceling insurance policies, including vehicle coverage. Also, be cautious and smart about your decisions. Many vehicle insurance policies have a multi-car discount. So if you are receiving the benefit of one of these policies, you may want to continue that benefit until the divorce is final.

I am contemplating filing for divorce. Can I take my spouse off of my health insurance plan to save money?

You can, but don’t waste your time. During the divorce process, if you were covering your spouse under your health insurance and it was affordable, the Court will order that you continue that order during the pendency of the divorce or pay alimony to that spouse so they can obtain affordable health care. Also, if you remove a spouse from your health insurance policy and your spouse incurs a medical expense during the pendency of the divorce, the Court will require that you pay that medical expense in full from your own pocket. This will continue until the divorce is finalized. At that time, almost all insurance companies required your ex-spouse to be taken off the family policy since they were no longer family. If you are the spouse that will be removed from the insurance policy, COBRA laws allow you to keep the policy for up to 36 months (albeit at a higher cost) as long as you notify your spouse’s employer within 60 days after the divorce is finalized.

I am contemplating divorce and have learned that a retirement plan is usually split up. Can I take money out of my retirement plan to prevent this?

Absolutely not! It is correct that any retirement accrued during the marriage is split between the parties during a divorce. It is also a reality that a retirement plan is one of the biggest assets of the marriage, so it may be tempting for someone to take a big chunk of this money out to protect it. However, an attorney will likely gain knowledge after meeting with his client and issuing discovery, and the Court will likely see this as dissipating assets. The court can take such action as awarding your spouse a larger portion of marital assets to compensate for your actions. If you do this after a restraining order is issued, you could face other penalties, including fines and jail time. Many financial institutions have taken precautions to prevent his type of action, such as requiring your spouse’s approval to remove funds from a retirement account, especially if you and your spouse are separated.

My Spouse and I have children and are contemplating a divorce. Should I move out of the home to make the process easier?

This one depends on your position regarding child custody. Normally I would advise not moving out of the home unless they want to allow their spouse to have custody of the children during the pendency of the divorce. Courts assume that a parent’s divorce should have as little effect on the children as possible. Therefore, to prevent moving the children out of an environment they are used to, the court will award residential parent status to the parent in the home as long as there are no other factors that would prevent this from being in the children’s best interest.
There are circumstances such as domestic violence, and the court will understand the necessity of moving out of the marital home. Talking with a Cleveland divorce lawyer before moving out of the home is the best way to determine what you are putting at risk when the divorce is filed. As for the home itself, if you and your spouse do not have children together, there is no need to stay in the home to protect your interest in the home. The home is a marital asset subject to division. Therefore, the court will divide any marital portion of the home by either requiring that it be sold, and the proceeds or debt split equitably or that one spouse reimburses the other spouse for any marital equity in the home.
These are just a few difficult decisions that need to be made before you file for a divorce. Do yourself a favor, and don’t make these decisions alone. Contact the Akron divorce lawyer at the law firm of Slater & Zurz for help with all of your legal needs.