If you and your spouse are separating on good and trustworthy terms, you may not want to take some of the steps outlined below to minimize the disruption and antagonism in your lives. Often parties who are on good terms will continue to maintain joint bank accounts and other financial arrangements while the divorce is pending. However, when a spouse is bitter or vindictive, it is important to protect your finances and personal property as soon as is practical. Here are some suggestions that might work in in the latter situation.
1. Cancel all joint credit accounts.
While debt incurred by a spouse post-separation will generally not be considered a marital debt, you may still be liable to the creditor for the debt if you are a signer or co-signer. This is typically the case with joint credit card accounts, individual credit card accounts where your spouse is a cardholder, and home equity lines of credit. Often, if a credit account is left open, an estranged spouse can draw down on the line of credit to finance his or her post-separation living expenses.
It is also often difficult to parse out separate versus marital credit card transactions at equitable distribution, making the assignment of non-marital credit card debt to a spouse difficult. Further, there may be insufficient marital assets to satisfy the credit card debt at equitable distribution and/or a spouse may not pay the debt assigned to him or her at equitable distribution in a timely manner, impairing your credit rating. However, if you need access to funds post-separation to finance your living or legal expenses, you may consider taking an advance against one or more joint lines of credit before closing the accounts. Also, we recommend that if our customers do not have available cash to pay the fee for SnapDivorce® that they use a joint credit card prior to closing the account.
2. Close joint bank and investment accounts.
You should consider closing joint bank and investment accounts and moving the funds in such accounts to individually titled accounts. The purpose of this step is to secure the funds from being dissipated by your spouse. As with lines of credit, your estranged spouse may attempt to take the money in those accounts or use the money to finance his or her post-separation living and legal expenses. This step will also provide you with access to funds while the divorce is pending. You might consider leaving a portion of the funds in the account for your spouse. For example, often our customers will often effectively “split” an account by removing 50% of the funds in the account and leaving the remainder for their spouse.
3. Change your direct deposit and cancel automatic deductions from bank accounts.
If you have a recurring direct deposit of your paycheck or other funds, you should change it to an individually titled account. You will also need to cancel any automatic deductions, such as bills, that are paid out of bank accounts that you are closing or in which you are ceasing to deposit money.
4. Secure important and/or valuable personal property.
Divorce has a way of making personal property disappear or become damaged. You should promptly secure any personal property that is important to you or particularly valuable by removing it from the marital residence or other residence to which your spouse has access. This includes furniture, antiques, jewelry, gifts, photographs, memorabilia, work projects, computers, etc.
You do not need to and should not “clean out the house.” Just secure items that are irreplaceable, particularly valuable, or to which you need access during the divorce. You might consider renting a storage locker to store the personal property during the divorce. You might also consider inventorying the contents of the marital residence by photography or video at the outset of the divorce.
5. Secure all important financial documentation.
Having access to both your and your spouse’s financial documentation is important in a divorce and afterwards. Although SnapDivorce® normally obtain financial documents directly from the institutions, may ask you to provide us with copies. You may also have the need for the documents in the future. If possible, you should take all of your personal financial documentation (account statements, tax returns, etc.) and make copies of all of your spouse’s financial documentation and secure those documents at a location to which your spouse does not have access. Do not forget about computer files that include financial information, such as QuickBooks files.
6. Change your mailing address.
Once you are involved in the divorce process, you may not want your spouse to have access to your mail. If you have moved out of the marital residence, change your address to your new residence. If you are going to continue to live in the marital residence, secure a post office box or ask a friend or relative if you can have your mail forwarded to their address temporarily.
7. Change your passwords.
Your spouse probably knows your passwords to all of your devices (computers, phones, tablets, etc.) and on-line accounts (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, bank accounts, etc.). Change all of these passwords immediately.
8. Forget what your friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers have told you about divorce (unless they recommended SnapDivorce®, which is great advice).
“I know someone who only paid $400 for a divorce;” “My sister said that I’m guaranteed to get full custody;” “I moved out of the house because my wife told me that I had to.” People going through divorce get all kinds of advice about divorce from their friends and family. This advice is often grossly inaccurate. Every situation is unique. Just because your co-worker has to do something does not mean you will be required to do the same thing. Don’t let your acquaintances’ free “legal advice” affect your judgment or actions. Let the experienced professionals at SnapDivorce® resolve your case fairly and efficiently.
9. Rely on professionals.
There really is no more important step in the divorce process than relying on the professionals who are doing this on a daily basis, and who have experience in applying the ever-evolving divorce laws in real time. It is incredibly easy to let the promise of a $159.00 “do it yourself” divorce ruin your financial future. Too often parties involved in divorce seek legal professionals only after they have tried to represent themselves. Then it is either too late to correct the mistakes or it adds unnecessary costs to the process. Seek out professionals who can get you to a fair and equitable result from the outset. Of course we truly believe that SnapDivorce® is the best option for anyone going through a divorce.
10. Talk to your children.
Even in the best of cases divorce is difficult for everyone, especially children. It becomes even more stressful when your children don’t know what is going on. Most children are adept observers of their parents; they can tell that something is amiss, even if they are unable to articulate their impressions. You should discuss the situation with your children as soon as possible after you have decided to pursue a divorce. You might consider meeting with a family counselor or therapist to assist with this discussion. While the conversations will be difficult, they will almost certainly lead to a less adversarial and stressful divorce process.