Preparing for Divorce

If you are considering filing for a divorce, consider taking the following measures to protect yourself and your family financially.

  • 1. Start an “emergency fund.” Begin by setting money aside that you may need in case your spouse refuses to pay expenses or empties your joint bank account.

  • 2. Open an individual bank account. Open a separate account at a bank where your spouse does not do business. Keep your emergency fund in this separate account. Be prepared, however, to make full disclosure to your spouse of this account and all transactions during the divorce proceeding.

  • 3. Keep separate assets separate. If you have any pre-marital money or investments, inheritance, gifts, or other property that you have traditionally kept separate from what you and your spouse keep together, do not mix or “comingle” your property with joint property. Otherwise, you may risk losing some or all of your separate property during the divorce process.

  • 4. Obtain or make copies of important financial documents, including the following:

    • Tax returns, including returns filed for you and your spouse and any businesses that either of you may own.
    • Financial statements for any businesses.
    • Stock certificates, car titles, deeds to real property and bonds.
    • Statements for any savings, money market, bond, or other investment accounts.
    • Checking account statements and check registers (including cancelled checks if available).
    • Real estate appraisals.
    • Personal property appraisals (e.g., those made for insurance purposes).
    • Wills and/or trust documents.
  • 5. Obtain a separate safety deposit box. Store important documents and records, including those listed above, in the box.

  • 6. Make a list of any valuable property that your spouse might hide or move. Take pictures if possible.

  • 7. Make a list of any mail that your spouse receives from brokerage firms, banks, insurance companies, and credit card companies.

  • 8. Do not sign any contracts, promissory notes, deeds, mortgages, or other similar documents before consulting with an attorney.

  • 9. Keep a diary of your spouse’s activities. Write down relevant events about your spouse, including any extended time away from home (trips, late nights, etc.). Record the date and time of the absence, and your spouse’s explanation. However, do not write anything in the diary that you do not want made public and refrain from making derogatory comments as the diary may be disclosed during the divorce. Remember to record just the important facts.

  • 10. Keep your important documents in a safe and confidential location.

  • 11. Consider forwarding your mail to another location to prevent your spouse's interception.

© 2008 William J. Arendt & Associates, P.C. All rights reserved.