The beginning of a divorce is a very difficult and very important time.
Lots of stuff happens very quickly, and what you do will have lasting a lasting impact on you and your family — for better or worse.
One of the most important things you can do at the beginning of your divorce is to secure your money/assets (i.e., make sure it’s not taken and squandered). In many divorces, money magically disappears. And once it’s gone, it’s hard to get it back (usually because it’s hidden or spent).
In light of this, this adage seems appropriate: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Here are six ways to help secure your money/assets when you start your divorce:
- Open new accounts in your name only and take 50% of the joint bank accounts.
This piece of advice is #1 because disappearing funds from joint bank accounts is the #1 financial shenanigan in divorce. Don’t get taken to the cleaners; move the money.
- Freeze joint credit cards.
You’d be amazed at how often people run up their joint credit cards when divorces start. The general rule for dividing debt after separation is “the person who incurred the debt keeps it.” Problem is if the debt was on a joint card, the credit card company will come after you simply because your name’s on the card. Keep it simple: freeze joint cards. You can always unfreeze them later if you decide to.
- Freeze joint investment and asset accounts.
Same principle holds true for joint investment and asset accounts. You don’t want your soon-to-be ex removing money from the joint stock portfolio. Chances are you’ll never see that money again, so it’s best to freeze the account for the time being.
- Inventory all personal property.
People move out during divorces. In the mix, stuff gets “lost” all the time. If you don’t have a good inventory of all personal property (think: all the stuff that’s in and around your house, but isn’t your actual house), then you’ll never be able to recreate everything that was there to begin with.
- Make copies of all financial records.
In your divorce, you’ll be asked to complete a Financial Declaration. This Declaration requires you to provide proof of your taxes, debts, assets, and monthly payments (e.g., mortgage, utilities, daycare, car payments). Make a copy of that stuff now so you don’t have to go looking for it later. Once divorces start, spouses tend to hoard these documents, which makes getting an accurate accounting of debts and assets very difficult.
- Hire a good divorce attorney.
Yeah, I know, a divorce attorney tells you to hire a divorce attorney to help with your divorce. It’s like asking a barber if you need a haircut (hint: his answer is always “Yes.”) Honestly, though, you need a professional by your side looking out for you and your family. A good, thoughtful divorce attorney will help you be successful with money both during and after divorce.