No one wins in divorce. Getting divorced can be a tremendously stressful and life-changing process. Both people will feel upset, and it can be hard to have the focus you need to address the issues that need to be resolved. In order to minimize the feelings of lost control, we suggest taking a few steps to protect your financial situation.
Gather Your Financial Records
Gather all of your financial records so that your attorney can accurately assess your situation. This will help you receive a fair and equitable division of assets and make certain you retain what is legally yours. Under California law, marital property (that is property that you and your spouse accumulated during the marriage, with certain exceptions) must be divided equally between the parties. You need to be sure you know what you have, and you should prepare a checklist of documents and try to go back five years if possible. Include items such as:
- Bank statements
- Income tax returns (personal & business)
- Proof of income (yours and your spouse's)
- Stock portfolios
- Credit card statements
- Insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
- Pension statements
While using a checklist to organize your financial documents, start to assess your property and determine the worth of these items. Make a list of things that you owned before the marriage, clothing, gifts that were for you alone during the marriage or inheritance you received. These are generally not considered marital assets.
Document the dollar values of property acquired during the marriage. Have possessions like real estate property, antiques, collectibles and jewelry assessed for the current market value. And, believe it or not, taking date-stamped photos is a good policy because things often go missing during a divorce.
Create New Accounts
It's important to not commingle money and credit with your spouse going forward. Open new checking and savings accounts in your name only. Transfer your balances to these accounts and remove yourself from any joint accounts where possible. It may be prudent to begin again at a new bank to ensure privacy and confidentiality. If you don't already have them, start credit cards in your name only and remove yourself from joint cards. You'll be able to use these to build a solid and independent personal credit history.
You should consult an experienced family law attorney to make sure that you are doing what is necessary to protect your financial future. A mistake at this time can be extremely costly, and in some cases, may even be impossible to reverse. Do not allow yourself to be put in this position.