Things to Do When Headed for a Divorce

by Anna Assad
Your finances will play a huge role in your divorce.

Your finances will play a huge role in your divorce.

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Divorce affects several areas of your life, so if you're heading toward a divorce with your spouse, you need to plan ahead. During the divorce proceedings, you may not have access to the family accounts or funds. Some matters will remain unresolved until you and your spouse come to an agreement or the judge decides for you.

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Prepare Financially

Once you tell your spouse you want a divorce, he may move to protect his assets, leave the home and not help you with household bills. You may be cut off from accounts in his name or not allowed to use joint accounts during court proceedings. Saving money in a separate bank account in your name ensures you have access to money to cover your living expenses during the divorce proceedings. If you don't have any credit cards in your name alone, apply for at least one card to help establish your credit. If you can, pay down debts from the marriage. Because you'll be splitting one household into two households and increasing overall living expenses, any debts will be more difficult to pay. Debts your spouse incurred before you married, such as a student loan, should remain his responsibility alone.

Copy Records and Take Inventory

Household financial records are usually easy to access before you tell your spouse you want to divorce. If he moves out or you leave the family home, you might not be able to get to important financial documents. Copy all the financial records you find, such as his pay stubs, tax returns for the last five years, retirement account plan statements and bank account statements. State laws vary, but typically, you're entitled to assets gained during your marriage. You must therefore provide your legal representation with as much information as possible about assets you and your husband own. An inventory of household items might be necessary if the property division in your divorce doesn't go smoothly. You don't need to list common items, such as towels; stick to valuable or expensive items and family heirlooms.

Plan

Once you're headed for divorce, you'll need plans for some areas of your life. Make a budget for yourself and go over the current household bills so you have an accurate picture of your financial health. If you have children, their needs should be your priority. Plan for their care and support during the divorce and think of ways to preserve their current routines as much as possible. For example, if your spouse normally takes your child to a sports activity once a week while you work, find another person who can take your child to his activity in case your spouse refuses to do so once you file for divorce. If you'll need child care services, plan ahead by locating area facilities and getting prices; your spouse is partly responsible for the cost of your child's care.

Find Legal Representation

Speak to and hire an attorney before filing for divorce. Although you can file for divorce without an attorney in some cases, you may make a costly mistake or have to deal with unpleasant surprises in an already stressful situation if you represent yourself. Interview at least three attorneys before selecting a divorce attorney. Look for an attorney you feel confident in and comfortable with in terms of style. For example, if you expect the divorce will be hotly contested, you may want an attorney with a more aggressive style. Talk to your state's bar association if you can't afford an attorney. The bar association may be able to recommend free or reduced cost legal services to you.