Steps of Protective Divorce Preparation

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In today’s world, it is just as likely that a marriage will come to an end due to divorce just as much as it is for the couple to stay together. Marriages come to an end for many reasons, including adultery, problems communicating, control issues or many other reasons.

Regardless of the reason for the termination of the marriage, it is important to re-establish order before filing for divorce. It is not uncommon for one party to take on most of the financial responsibilities during the marriage, but this dynamic can create an imbalance of power during the divorce process. While a difference in power can make a spouse lose self-worth, correcting this imbalance can help the spouse feel more empowered.

When divorce is likely to occur or one party has the intention of filing for divorce, there are certain protective steps that they can take, including:

Protect Separate Assets

Whether the state where the divorce is filed is considered an equitable distribution state or a community property state, courts generally recognize that each spouse can have his or her own separate property that is not subject to division during divorce. Separate property is classified under state law but typically includes:

• Property obtained by inheritance or a gift specific to only one spouse
• Property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage
• Property that is separate by
• Proceeds from a personal injury case

These assets can sometimes become mixed with marital assets. For example, if a spouse adds his or her spouse’s name to a deed or title, the property then becomes the property of the other spouse, too. Additionally, this can occur when a spouse sells separate property and deposits the proceeds into a joint account. Spouses must take great care to maintain separate property.

Gather Documents

It is much easier to gather important financial documents before there is a physical separation. The spouses need to be aware of the value of their assets and liabilities in order to know what needs to be split. The spouses may have assets such as:

• Cash
• Checking accounts
• Saving accounts
• Real estate
• IRAs
• 401(k) accounts
• CDs

A divorce lawyer may ask for statements on financial accounts, deeds and tax returns for the last several years. Additionally, he or she may ask for proof of income including check stubs to help settle issues regarding child support or spousal support. After a divorce petition is filed, it is common for these financial records to suddenly disappear.

Save Money

Divorce has a significant financial effect on spouses. Two incomes may suddenly become one. One household must now split into two. The financial needs during divorce can also be significant. A spouse should attempt to save money to pay for a lawyer and legal expense. Additionally, the spouse may want to consider paying off as much debt as possible before the divorce is finalized so that there is less financial entanglement between the spouses after divorce.

Establish Credit

Many times, one spouse may have taken the lead on financial decisions and may have established credit in one name. This may require the other spouse to take steps to establish credit in his or her own name. However, it is important that the spouse establish credit in his or her own name since this can impact his or her ability to acquire a mortgage, rent an apartment, obtain a credit card or purchase significant assets.

Close Joint Accounts

At the same time, the spouse will not want to be tied to the debt of the other spouse. Sometimes during divorce a spouse may become bitter and try to use money to control or punish the other spouse. Joint checking accounts can be closed. Joint credit card accounts may also be closed or frozen. There are specific laws and rules that apply in different jurisdictions that pertain to how these accounts should be handled, and a divorce lawyer can provide specific advice.

Hire a Divorce Lawyer

A divorce lawyer should be consulted early in the process. He or she should be contacted in order to receive individualized advice about protective steps that the spouse can take. A divorce lawyer is familiar with the rules in the jurisdiction where the divorce will eventually be filed and can provide specific advice. A divorce lawyer can walk his or her client through the divorce process and take steps to safeguard his or her rights. He or she can also help the client avoid making mistakes with the process that can cost more in the long run.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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