The process of deciding whether to seek a divorce can be a long and difficult one. There are many emotional and financial calculations that go into making this decision, and many couples wrestle with the issue for a considerable amount of time before feeling confident with their conclusion. Taking the necessary time to know that your decision is the right one is important. Once you've finally reached a place where you believe that divorce is imminent, there are some important financial steps you should take to help put you in the best position possible.
First, and this cannot be underlined enough, begin gathering financial documents. Every divorce, regardless of the amount of money at stake, will involve finances. In divorce, it is true that knowledge is power, and the person with the most information often has an advantage over the other party. This means you should attempt to get your hands on all the important account statements right away so that you and your attorney can be armed with as many facts as possible. Collect bank statements, mortgage statements, retirement account information, even credit card bills. Given the migration of many accounts to the Internet, it's easier than ever to just print records from your personal computer. Something that many couples may not think about, but which is crucial, is to locate copies of tax returns for at least the last several years.
Next, request a credit report for yourself. Though you may think that you've gathered all your account information, a credit report might reveal accounts that you never knew existed. These can be helpful to obtain a good picture of your overall financial health and creditworthiness as you prepare to branch out on your own. You can also keep track of your credit as you move through the divorce process to make sure that no unusual activity occurs.
Opening accounts in your name only is another important step while preparing for divorce. It's often easier to open personal accounts while you're still married than to wait until a divorce has impacted your finances. This is especially true in cases where one spouse has little or no personal credit or employment history of their own.
Finally, reaching out to an experienced family law attorney who can help guide you through the difficult process is essential to prepare for a divorce. Prepare a list of questions (such as these) to ask the attorneys you meet with, paying careful attention to how comfortable you feel with each one. Divorce is a personal process and involves revealing very intimate details of your life. Given this, it's critical you feel secure with your attorney.
Source: “Thinking of Divorcing? Some Financial First Steps,” by Loretta Hutchinson, published atPhillyBurbs.com.