3 Foolproof Ways to Protect Yourself in a Divorce

We seek to think the best of people, but in a divorce proceeding emotions can run high and things can quickly turn ugly.  In a contentious divorce case, it is not uncommon for one or both exes to try and screw the other one over by hiding assets or draining joint accounts.  There are things you can do to protect yourself financially during a divorce.

1. Get a Lawyer

If you are planning on filing for divorce and you and your spouse have a lot of money and assets, or you believe it will be an ugly, messy divorce, talk to an attorney before you file.  A lawyer can advise you of the ideal time to file based on your state’s laws and your specific set of circumstances.  In some states, it may be ideal to file as soon as possible.  In other states, particularly ones that require a divorcing couple to prove fault, you may be better off waiting to gather evidence of fault before filing.  A good divorce lawyer will have access to forensic accountants who can discover if your ex is trying to hide money and assets from you.  A lawyer can also advise you of what you are entitled to.  You may be entitled to more money than you realize.  Hiring a lawyer may be expensive, but it may be worth it if you are able to get all of the money and property within your rights.

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2. Close or Limit Access to Joint Accounts

One of the most vital ways you can protect yourself during a divorce is to close joint accounts, if you can, or at least limit access to them.  This includes joint credit cards.

With credit cards, both spouses will likely be equally responsible for paying off the balance for spending during the marriage.  What you do not want happening is your ex going on a shopping spree after you file for divorce, and you being responsible for half of those charges.  As soon as you file for divorce, contact your credit card companies.  You probably will not be able to close the account altogether, but you can prevent new spending.  Once you file for divorce, you will want to get a new credit card in your name alone.

You should also contact any banks or financial institutions where you and your spouse have joint accounts.  Your bank will probably not let you close the joint account until the divorce is final, but you can prevent withdrawals of large sums of money.  You may be able to freeze the account or you can require two signatures before any money can be withdrawn.  Alternatively, you should not drain a joint bank account in anticipation of filing for divorce, even it is just to protect yourself.  This could be seen as an attempt to hide money from your ex, and it could have detrimental financial consequences to you when settling the divorce.  An attorney can advise you with how to handle your joint bank accounts.

During the divorce you should be constantly monitoring your credit.  Things your ex do could affect your credit.  Getting a credit report allows you to fix mistakes before they have a serious impact on your finances.  You may need to put a fraud alert on your credit report so your spouse cannot open accounts in your name out of spite.  A credit report could also help you discover financial secrets your spouse has been hiding.

3. Protect Your Data and Mail

When you file for divorce, one of the first things you should do is change all of your passwords to your email accounts, bank accounts, and any other sensitive online data.  Make sure your new passwords are something your ex will not be easy to guess – do not use the name of your favorite sports team or your kids’ birthdays.  If you have already moved out, make sure you have your mail forwarded to your new address.  If you have not moved out, rent a post office box and have all of your mail sent there.

Divorces can be expensive and emotionally draining.  By following these steps, you can ensure that the divorce does not completely drain you financially.

How to Avoid Going Into Debt During a California Divorce

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