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Preparation is important during a divorce

Going through a divorce requires mental and financial preparation. Taking these steps before filing helps assure that a family can take care of their future expenses. First, a spouse should open their own checking and savings account to take care of their financial needs. An accounting of deposits to the other spouse, however, helps assure that there are no justifiable accusations that the spouse is hiding assets.

All joint credit card, mortgage and other accounts should also be closed or paid off. Creditors should be apprised if any of these accounts cannot be paid off. This helps decrease any debt that must be resolved after divorce. A spouse, accordingly, should not incur new future credit card debt.

A spouse who does not have income needs to ask their spouse to remove their names from joint accounts and possibly negotiate paying off some of the debt once a job is secured. A spouse may also withdraw half of the money from joint accounts or require the signatures of both spouses before funds can be withdrawn.

Personal valuables need to be safeguarded so they are not taken or destroyed. However, it is important to have a thorough list of property for filing with the court. Pictures of property and marital possessions may be important evidence in the divorce.

Any property purchased with marital funds will need to be divided. Selling any property for cash is also ill-advised because a spouse may have to repay this money later. Obtaining a post office box is another important safeguard. This protects privacy and helps assure that important documents are not disclosed to the other spouse.

Knowledge is power. For spouses who did not participate in paying the family's bills or other financial decisions, this is the time to learn about the couple's assets and debts to avoid financial imbalances during negotiations or litigation. Obtaining copies of both spouse's credit reports can also disclose whether a spouse opened their own undisclosed credit account or made reckless expenditures that can impact both credit scores. Because retirement funds are a major asset, it is important to know the value of any of these accounts to prepare for negotiations or divorce proceedings.

Source: Good Men Project, "11 tips for protecting YOUR assets during divorce," April 18, 2018

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