There is nothing greedy or otherwise wrong with wanting to protect your own money and property, even when you’re protecting it from your ex. After all, when separating your life from someone else’s, there’s already a guaranteed amount of loss; people aren’t usually keen to make that worse. While you can’t hide or lie about assets, there are still steps you can take to protect yourself through your Tennessee divorce. It’s just important to know, especially if your ex is on the more vindictive side of things.
Anyone threatening to take all your stuff is a bit scary. When it’s someone who knows where all that stuff is and might have the legal ability to do it, that fear becomes much more real. Luckily, it isn’t quite that easy for them.
Know what could be up for grabs in a Knoxville divorce
You have to know what you can actually protect, right? Marriage is a commitment of give-or-take, and the same goes for divorce. You’re going to lose something after all is said and done. However, knowledge is power. Knowing how the courts divide assets can help you plan ahead of time with a more realistic idea of what to expect. It also gives you some footing if you need to push back (with the help of an attorney).
So, here’s the deal. Tennessee is all about equitable distribution in divorce, which means fairness — rather than 50/50 equality — is favored. There’s a whole process put in place for the courts to decide what, exactly, counts as fair in your circumstances:
- Identification, where all your combined assets are combed through and they make sure no one’s hiding or stealing anything (hint: don’t do that).
- Categorization, as either marital or personal property. Personal property is yours to keep, marital stuff is up for grabs. Good news: this means anything you had before the marriage is safely yours. Bad news: your retirement benefits are not that. You’d be able to keep anything you personally inherited or were gifted during the marriage, though — small victories!
- Valuation, which is exactly what it sounds like: the value of all your marital property is assessed and assigned a fair market value. For some items, this can be complicated, but at least they don’t expect you to do the math.
- Distribution, which does not get any more straight-forward than that. It’s when stuff is distributed. We know, you’re shocked.
Sometimes there are more steps, and sometimes there are extra complications, but that’s what attorneys are there for. No one can predict the future, but attorneys are prepared to deal with it.
How can I protect my assets?
Let’s talk about what you’re really interested in. Now, like we mentioned earlier, you cannot lie about or hide any assets. Seriously, you cannot do this. Even if your ex threatened to break into your home and sneak into all your secret piggy banks, you still have to tell the court where you moved those piggy banks.
But even though you can’t pull the proverbial wool over anyone’s eyes, there are still some measures you can take throughout the course of the divorce to make sure your assets are treated fairly — and you too:
- Take inventory of assets and debts as soon as you can. Work with your attorney to make sure it’s done as accurately as possible.
- Open new accounts in your name only, and maybe close any joint accounts you have. It’s not about hiding, it’s about making sure your ex doesn’t go on a goodbye-spending-spree and leave you with the bill.
- Sort out all your mortgage and rent payments so you don’t have to deal with an eviction and a divorce at the same time.
- Change your will as soon as you’re able, for obvious reasons.
- Seriously, be ready to share your retirement accounts and 401Ks.
- Hire a divorce attorney sooner rather than later. You need someone who can either guide you through mediation or collaborative divorce if possible, and someone who can navigate the law on your behalf regardless of the circumstances. Divorce is not a process you want to attempt alone, and you certainly don’t want to risk losing more than you need to.
In the same vein of why hiring a divorce attorney is a good idea, know that part of what they can do is convince a judge that something is indeed yours, and not marital property. The law may have your best interests in mind, but that doesn’t mean it’s impervious to mistakes. Sometimes, things aren’t done as fairly as they should be. Knowing that alone isn’t enough — you have to be able to prove it. Attorneys are trained to do just that in ways that Google simply cannot teach you.
That all being said, if you are looking to divorce your spouse, now is the time to find help. Luckily for you, the Knoxville divorce attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter have dozens and dozens of successful divorces under their belts, and they specialize in protecting your rights when they’re at their most vulnerable. No matter the reason, divorce is never easy. You don’t need to worry about losing everything you own alongside that drama. Making the right decision for you and your life should not be that expensive. Trust us to take your case as seriously as you do, because we really care, and we can really help. Call us today at (865) 637-6258 or use our contact form to learn how.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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