The tussle over custody for your children will likely be your top priority as you work through your divorce. When custody issues are in the forefront, it may be easy to overlook the importance of your finances. However, once the dust settles and a judge has signed your divorce papers, you do not want to have a settlement that causes you to struggle to make ends meet.
Taking steps to protect your financial future as early as possible is essential, especially if you and your spouse agreed that you would give up your career to take care of the children and the home. Your spouse may try to convince you that you do not have a share in the money he or she earned while you were out of the job market. This is not true, and there are steps you can take to protect your right to a fair share of your marital assets.
Taking steps to protect your finances
You may have marital debts as well as assets. Any loans, credit cards or other debts acquired during your marriage may be jointly owed even if only one spouse accumulated it. To avoid the many complications that may arise when the courts divide marital debt, it is wise to pay off as much as possible and close those accounts before beginning the divorce process. If this is not possible, you may be able to negotiate with your spouse or the creditors to have your name removed from any joint accounts.
The less debt you have as you enter your post-divorce life, the better it will be for you to adjust to a very different lifestyle and income. In addition to paying off debt and closing joint credit accounts, financial advisors recommend these steps before you file for divorce:
- Open a post office box to direct your new financial and legal information away from your spouse's eyes.
- Do not make any purchases on credit until after your divorce is final.
- Learn as much as you can about the finances in your marriage.
- Start training for a new job or go back to school.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report as well as your spouse's to get a complete idea of where you stand.
- Inventory your valuables and take pictures to prevent your spouse from hiding or destroying them.
- Open your own checking and savings accounts.
You must handle the last two points delicately because you don't want your spouse to accuse you of hiding assets. You can avoid this by filing the inventory of your assets with the court and by informing your spouse that you have opened the new accounts. Keep a careful log of how you use the money in those accounts since it is still part of the marital estate until the divorce is settled. Above all, follow the advice of your attorney.