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I May Have to Go Through a Divorce. What Should I Do to Protect Myself?

Posted by John Millard | Jan 09, 2023

Divorce is never easy. It's an emotional and frightening time, even under the best of circumstances. But there are some things you can do now, before a suit is filed, to protect yourself and relieve the anxiety and stress you are feeling. A little preparation goes a long way should divorce become necessary or imminent. Here are some tips that may be helpful.

Get Organized

As the saying goes, “Information is power.” This is especially true during a divorce. You must learn about your marital assets and debts, especially if your spouse is the one who pays the bills or makes most of the family financial decisions. You should gather information now regarding the finances for you and your spouse, including:

  • All bank, savings, and brokerage accounts, including account numbers.
  • Pay stubs for the last six months (or more). Year-end pay stubs are a must.
  • Bank, savings, and brokerage account statements for the last 12 months (or more).
  • Credit card statements for the last 12 months (or more).
  • Retirement (IRA's, 401k's) and pension account statements for the last five years.
  • Your last three years' personal and business tax returns (
  • A current Social Security benefits statement (
  • A list of all life insurance policies insuring you, your spouse, or your children, including policy numbers, policy amounts, and beneficiaries.
  • Current mortgage statements for all real estate you and your spouse own.
  • Recent real estate appraisals for all property you and your spouse own.
  • Deeds to all real estate owned by your and your spouse.
  • Current loan statements for all vehicles, motorcycles, boats, RVs, toys, etc.
  • Vehicle titles and registrations.
  • Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”) for all vehicles.
  • Statements for memberships, reward points, and other perks.
  • Information regarding digital assets like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Create an Inventory

Prepare an “inventory” of all valuables, including household furniture, furnishings, jewelry, artwork, and other personal property. For a quick way to document these items, do a video or photo walkthrough of the home, recording all marital property in the house. Keep the pictures or videos in a separate file folder that is secure and available to you no matter where you are. “Cloud storage” services like Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive are excellent options for storing this type of information. Just make sure your data is kept private and secure!

Open Your Own Accounts

Consider opening a checking account in your name alone. You may also want to open a credit card in your name alone but remember, credit card applications often result in a credit check, which may be discoverable by your spouse. A better option may be to have a Debit Card associated with your bank account. You can opt for online statements for any bank or credit card accounts you open rather than having paper statements mailed to your home. Strive to have sufficient funds under your control in case of emergency or should the need to retain an attorney arise. You should strive to have at least three months of your basic necessary living expenses available to you, should the need arise.

Protect Your Privacy

You should make sure your personal information is secure and private with any financial account. Remember, anything you do on a family computer or tablet can be discovered and accessed by your spouse. Avoid accessing or saving personal information to any computer, tablet, or device your spouse has access to.

Online and computer privacy is a topic far beyond the scope of this article, but there is much information online about how to protect your privacy online. Do your research, but don't forget that others can view your internet browsing history on shared computers or other devices. It may be best to do this type of research from another location, such as an office computer or even a computer available at a library or copy center like Kinko's.

Protect Your Email, Computer Activity, and Cell Phone Data

It is essential to protect the privacy of your computer, email accounts, and cell phone. You should password protect each device and account and any cloud storage accounts associated with your phone or computer. To protect yourself from unauthorized access, place a strong firewall and antivirus software on all electronic devices, including phones, computers, and tablets. This will help prevent spyware from being loaded surreptitiously onto your computer or device.

Change Your Passwords

This is good advice for everyone, but it is essential if you go through a divorce. Change passwords to your email accounts, phones, tablet, and computers. Don't use passwords that are easy to guess. You may consider getting a password manager app like Bitwarden, 1Password, or LastPass.

If you use online banking or access credit information online, change all passwords, PINs, and security questions to your accounts. Remember to create passwords and security questions that your spouse would not be able to guess or know. If you separate from your spouse, you should probably change the passwords for all bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, utilities, Netflix, Amazon, department store accounts, etc. Just make sure you're not locking your spouse out of their accounts.

Obtain Your Credit Reports

You are entitled to obtain a credit report for free from the three major credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax). You can also monitor your credit through the credit reporting agencies to ensure that no one, including your spouse, is accessing your credit without authorization. Accessing your credit reports requires you to furnish information that may alert others that you have accessed your credit reports, including email marketing you may receive to market credit monitoring services. It is good to use a separate email account you are confident is secure to access this type of information.

Be Careful About What You Post on Social Media

Posting on social media about your divorce is a surefire way to let the entire world know about your current situation. Resist the temptation to air your marital difficulties online. Posting about your spouse, your children, or your finances on social media can drastically impact the outcome of your divorce or custody case. Remember, anything you post about your divorce or your spouse can – and likely will – be brought up in court. Bottom line: don't post about your divorce on social media.

EVERYTHING you post online or in an email, text, or instant message can eventually be discovered during a divorce proceeding. Change all your social media passwords and security questions to ensure only you have access to your sites.

Due to the privacy risks involved, you should probably limit your online exposure by suspending your social media accounts while the divorce or custody matter is pending. If you decide to continue to use social media, remove any previous posts that may be questionable or potentially damaging. Remove any friends you do not fully trust to keep your information private. Even if you use the highest privacy settings on your social media accounts, your “friends” can print, forward, or repost something you shared, putting the information out of your control.

Don't Use GPS Trackers, Keystroke Recorders, or Recording Devices

This is a gray area of the law. Violations can result in severe criminal penalties and fines. We strongly recommend against it, as the law is far too complicated, and the benefits you may receive are not worth the risk. It may be tempting, but don't do it.

Keep Important Text Messages and Social Media Posts

For better or worse, text messaging apps have fundamentally changed how we communicate. People fire off text messages without thinking of the consequences or assume the information will disappear. Text messages and social media posts make regular appearances in divorce court. There is nothing that can be more useful or more damaging in court. Watch what you say and post! You will see your text messages and posts again in court.

If you receive nasty messages or your spouse posts negative information about you on social media, take screenshots of the entire text string or post and save the screenshots to a private folder. Consider using extractors like iMazing for iPhone or Google Messages for Android devices. We use iMazing frequently in our practice. It helps us quickly extract and organize the treasure trove of information that messaging apps can contain. These apps are preferable to screenshots because they capture other important information that will make the admission of this information into evidence more likely.

Keep Important Voicemail Messages

Save voice messages and recordings, noting the date, time, and numbers used or called. This can be valuable evidence in court. And, be cautious about messages you leave, as you will hear them again in court if you make admissions or misbehave.

Estimate Your Future Living Expenses – Create a Budget

It's a good idea to prepare to manage your finances. Don't guess about what things cost. Use actual past bills to give you a better picture of what you will need and what it may cost. You can use an excel spreadsheet or several free online budget apps that will help you define and track your anticipated expenses.

Don't Forget About the Children

You may be getting a divorce, but your children are not. Reassure them that everything will be fine and that they need not worry. Never talk bad about the other parent. Nothing hurts a child more than talking negatively about the other parent. Never use your children as messengers or mediators for the case. Courts frown on this, and most impose injunctions against this behavior. Simply stated, keep your kids out of the litigation.

Keep Things Civil

Divorce doesn't have to be a war. You can divorce with dignity and without drama or excessive nastiness. Honesty is always the best policy. Don't hide assets, and don't misrepresent anything. Always take the high road (even if your spouse does not).

Protect Your Safety

If you are in danger, call 911. There are resources available to protect you from abuse. Texas has excellent protective order laws that you can use if subjected to family violence or stalking. If domestic violence is an issue, make a protection plan. Keep a bug-out bag packed and ready to go at a moment's notice. Alert trusted friends or family you can count on if an emergency should arise. Make provision to have a safe place to stay should the need arise. Have some cash stashed away in case of an emergency. If in danger, do not hesitate to call the police. You do not have to tolerate abuse.

You May Need a Lawyer

Not all marital difficulties result in divorce. If counseling will help keep the marriage together, start now! Talk to others who have been through a divorce. Use resources offered by your church or employer. But no matter where you are in your journey, it always pays to prepare. Start researching attorneys now. Look for an experienced attorney who practices in your location Family law cases often require multiple court appearances. You will want a lawyer who knows your local court system. You don't want to pay your lawyer to travel long distances to appear in court with you. Local is better. Start budgeting and saving for legal fees now. The reality is that legal services do cost money. And, like most things in life, you generally get what you pay for. A skilled family law attorney will save you money in the long run while minimizing stress.

Don't Forget to Mediate!

Most family law cases must be mediated at least once before proceeding to a final trial. In fact, most courts will also require mediation in cases involving disputes over custody, visitation, or child support hearing temporary orders. Armatys Millard can help with both! We understand the issues for temporary orders and for a final trial, and we will give you the benefit of our years of judicial experience and knowledge. 

Armatys Millard Is Here to Help!

Walter Armatys and John Millard have significant family law experience, both as trial lawyers and as Family Court Judges. This judicial experience gave Walter and John a keen insight into how Judges think, what persuades them, what annoys them, and, importantly, what information Judges need to make an appropriate ruling. Armatys Millard provides mediation and arbitration services for family law disputes pending in Fort Bend, Harris, and surrounding counties. You can count on our extensive family law experience and judicial wisdom to help successfully resolve your case.


If you need to mediate or arbitrate a divorce, custody dispute, or other family law issue, Armatys Millard, PLLC can help. Check availability and book your session online or call our office at 281-313-6800. We're here to help!

About the Author

John Millard

John Millard recently served as Associate Judge of the 328th District Family Court, Fort Bend County. This experience gave John a keen insight into how Judges think, what persuades them, what annoys them, and, importantly, what information Judges need to make an appropriate ruling. John provides mediation and arbitration services for family law cases pending in Fort Bend, Harris, and surrounding counties. You can count on John's extensive family law experience and judicial wisdom to help successfully resolve your case.

Contact Us Today

If you need to mediate or arbitrate a divorce, custody dispute, or other family law issue, Armatys Millard has the experience, knowledge, and judicial wisdom to help.

Schedule online or call our office at 281-313-6800 to check availability and schedule Mediation or Arbitration with the Mediation Judges today!