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How to protect your financial assets during a divorce

Divorce is a difficult process for everyone involved. Emotions are often hard to manage, stress levels are elevated, and that’s true even if the dissolution of the relationship is reasonably amicable. Still, there is no guarantee of a friendly breakup. And even if things start out on congenial terms, the atmosphere often becomes hostile when it’s time to sort out asset distribution, alimony, and matters related to children – support, custody, and visitation.

A divorce is not just the end of a human partnership. It is also the end of a financial one. And you and your partner may be worlds apart when it comes to sorting out the details. So it’s wise to take the necessary steps to protect your assets during a divorce. What can you do to safeguard yourself financially?

Get your own bank accounts and credit card

It’s a good idea to open both a checking and savings account in your name only, and do so at a bank that you and your spouse don’t use. This will keep your information confidential. Obtain a credit card in your name so you can start establishing your own credit record and score.

Check your credit score and report

In a less-than-amicable divorce, one spouse may attempt to damage the other’s credit. Check your credit report frequently during the divorce process. Watch out for credit cards taken out in your name, and don’t ignore questionable activity. Cancel joint credit cards. If you see something that looks suspicious – no matter how small – tell your attorney.

Take an inventory

You should make a list all of your assets, including property, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, business assets, artwork, jewelry, antiques, and collectibles. Take time-stamped photos of valuable items and keep them in a safe place; if something goes missing, such photos may prove invaluable. You could also take a video of the items in your home, opening cabinets and drawers so your possessions can be clearly seen.

Lower your expenses

There’s no arguing the fact that divorce is expensive. So a budget is indispensable; know how much you’ll need not just for the divorce, but what your living expenses will be once you’re on your own. The fact is, without a second income, you’ll almost certainly have to cut spending and expenses. Get rid of unnecessary things like pay TV and extra telephone lines.

Get your records in order

Gather all of your financial records. These should include complete records for the previous five years.  Your financial folder should include tax records, documents showing payroll and income amounts, bank and investment statements, and any paperwork related to property ownership. Make copies of everything and don’t keep them at home. They can be put in a safe deposit box or given to a trusted friend.

Divorce proceedings can take unexpected twists and turns. If it seems that divorce is inevitable, take the necessary steps to protect yourself financially. And talk to a qualified, experienced lawyer to guide you through this difficult and complex process.

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