Too many people are not ready financially when their spouse decides to file for divorce. If you suspect that a divorce is in your future, it is important to take certain steps to protect yourself and your financial future. Not only do you want to be ready financially, you want to protect yourself in the event that your spouse decides to play nasty, underhanded games, such as run up (or cancel) credit cards, drain the financial accounts, or hide financial accounts.
Here is a short list of things that you can do to protect yourself.
1. Get to know your assets, liabilities and monthly living expenses. Many people have no idea of their monthly living expenses, debts or assets. While the reasons vary from household to household, many never see their spouse’s paycheck, their income tax return even though they may sign it, or know the status of the household debt. Worse, they have no idea of the assets, such as investment accounts. Be proactive. Search for records and know the financial condition of your family.
2. Consult with and get an attorney. An experienced Arizona divorce attorney can advise you of your legal rights and any potential complications prior to the divorce proceedings so that you are adequately prepared.
3. Have adequate cash on hand. All too often a spouse will go into a divorce without enough cash on hand to cover legal expenses, court fees, new housing, and routine bills. If divorce seems to be on the horizon, start saving as much cash as possible, as soon as possible, in order to cover these expenses. Also, start thinking about a budget. When you pursue a divorce, you and the other spouse will go from support one household with a certain amount of income to supporting two households with the same amount of income.
4. Become aware of the complete financial situation. Before the actual divorce takes place, it is very important to understand the financial landscape of your family. You will want to determine all of your outstanding debts, including all individual debts, as well as all joint debts. You will want to know and understand the complete financial picture of your family, which includes knowing all credit card accounts, home equity lines, student loans, and any business debts.
5. Retain adequate financial records. You will want to retain and maintain easy access to all pertinent financial documents, such as credit card statements, mortgage bills, mortgage agreements, insurance policies, previous tax returns, wills, retirement plan accounts, and paystubs.
6. Establish accounts in your own name. Once it becomes clear that divorce is imminent, you should take proactive measures to establish financial accounts in your name alone, including checking accounts, credit cards, savings accounts, and retirement accounts. You may also want to take steps necessary to secure individual car insurance.
7. Fix automatic deposits and payments. You should request that your employer re-route all of your payments into your individual accounts.
8. Ensure mortgage payments. If you have purchased a home with your spouse or you are both on the lease, you must determine who will continue making the mortgage or rent payments. Creditors, including mortgagors and landlords, expect to receive their payments regardless of your marital status or whether you are still living in the home. Even if you plan on moving out, you are still responsible for at least half of the mortgage or rent payments so it is advisable to come to some agreement early on regarding who will continue making the housing payments.
If you have further questions about how to prepare for a divorce, you can make an appointment for a consultation with Thomas A. Morton, a Phoenix family law and divorce lawyer.