Divorce can be a painful process for many couples, both emotionally and financially. Many times, one or both spouses will put off the decision to seek a divorce until the very last minute. However, if it appears that your marriage is over and divorce is imminent, it is important for you to protect yourself. Your spouse will probably no longer have your best interests at heart so you must take the initiative to prepare for this complex legal process. At little upfront preparation on your part will make this painful process go a little smoother.
5 things to do before filing divorce
- Know what assets exist. Collect the previous year's tax returns, retirement and investment accounts, and anything that provided an income during the marriage. Legally, you may be able to receive compensation from your spouse's retirement plan. Place all of these documents into a single folder, so that you know exactly what assets exist and how much each is worth.
- Investigate your spouse's business affairs. Does your spouse own a small business? If so, they may be either hiding assets from you or you may not know what to look for in terms of your spouse's business records. Forensic accountants specialize in this type of investigation; consider hiring such a consultant if you believe your spouse may be hiding something.
- Mind your joint accounts. If you share banking accounts or have joint credit cards with your spouse, take your name off these accounts. This way, your spouse will not try and either run up debt or drain a bank account of funds before a settlement is reached.
- Take an inventory. Take an inventory of any physical objects that might hold value in the home, such as: coins, artwork, jewelry, furniture, home goods, automobiles and recreational vehicles. If it can be sold, it has value. If possible, try to figure out the financial worth of these assets.
- Understand how much debt was incurred. To assist with the division of marital debts, it's important for you to determine what debt was incurred during the marriage versus the debt your spouse may have accrued before the marriage.
Consult an experienced divorce attorney about the next steps in the legal process. Their role is to represent only your interests and provide clear and concise advice about your assets during this emotional time. Divorce is not easy but a competent divorce attorney will help you get through this grueling situation.