INSTRUCTIONS TO PROSPECTIVE CLIENT CONSIDERING INSTITUTING A
The following actions on your part will help you protect your rights while you are
making up your mind whether or not to institute suit for divorce:
- If you have received any monetary inheritance or gift (other than from your spouse) do
not co-mingle it with marital monies. Keep it segregated and try to keep it intact. You
may need it in the event of a separation.
- Locate and make copies of: the most recent income tax returns, including all schedules;
stock certificates (regardless whether ownership is individual or joint); bonds; savings
account passbooks or statements; money market fund statements; brokerage account
statements; checking account statements (and, if possible, the check stub register);
appraisals of real estate or tangible personal property (e.g., those made for insurance
purposes); loan applications and financial statements; and wills or trust documents. If
your spouse owns a business, try to xerox a copy of all cash receipts for past three
- Inventory the contents of any jointly held safe deposit box, as well as household
valuables such as silver, china, antiques, and objects d'art.
- Try to establish personal credit relationships (gasoline credit cards, department stores
and national credit car companies such as Visa, MasterCard, etc.)
- Open a bank account in your name at a bank where your spouse does not do business. Start
putting away as much money as you can. If and when you do separate, there will be a need
for available funds. You will need to retain an attorney and may have other expenses which
your spouse refuses to pay. He may even withhold support, which will place a financial
burden on you until a motion can be brought and heard.
- Obtain a safe deposit box at the same bank.
- Make a list of the return addresses of all mail received by your spouse from brokerage
houses, banks, insurance companies and credit card issuers.
- Make sure that your automobile is in good working order and has serviceable tires.
- Have a medical and dental examination. If convenient, undergo any treatments which are
needed or which you anticipate needing in the near future if they are covered under your
- Keep a diary of relevant events, including the comings and goings of your spouse. If
your spouse is away from home a lot (out at night, away on trips, etc.), record the dates
and times, as well as your spouse's explanations.
- Do not sign any contracts, promissory notes, deeds, mortgages or similar documents at
the request of your spouse. Your refusal may "blow your cover", but the
consequences of signing may be far worse than those of disclosure.
- In the event that you reach a decision to institute the divorce suit, more definitive
action is suggested, for there is no way to predict your spouse's reaction to the suit.
Thus, it may be advisable (a) to withdraw half of the funds from joint savings accounts
and jointly-held money market funds and to deposit them in the account you hold in your
own name at a different bank; (b) to take possession of jointly held stocks, bonds,
certificates of deposit, money market funds, etc., and place them into your own safe
deposit box; (c) to change the lock on your automobile; and (d) to make sure that you have
necessary clothing for the near future for yourself and your children, and if not, to
utilize joint credit cards to purchase them. (This is not to be interpreted as a license
to go on a buying spree, however. The purpose is only to protect yourself against the
possibility that your spouse may terminate the credit cards and refuse to pay support).
It should be recognized that the fundamental objective is to preserve and protect
marital assets, not dissipate them or to grab them off.
Provided as a public service by:
William J. Leininger, PC
Attorney at Law
34 Dumont Ave.
Staten Island, New York