Preparing for divorce? Take these steps to secure yourself financially

Finding a good divorce lawyer might just be the most important step you take to secure your financial future. It’s definitely the first thing you should do as you consider whether to end your marriage.

At Babbitt & Dahlberg, we’re here to help you make sound, objective decisions that could be overwhelming and potentially disastrous, long-term, if made alone.

At your initial consultation, we’ll discuss the details of your divorce or dissolution case, provide guidance and make recommendations for next steps. If you choose to proceed with our family law attorneys, we’ll work diligently to reach the most amicable resolution in your divorce or dissolution settlement. If your case goes to court, rest assured that Babbitt & Dahlberg will firmly defend your personal and fiscal interests.

Here are some steps you can take in the meantime. And remember, we’re only a phone call away.

Document everything

Determine what you own jointly and separately. If you have access to the paper records for any of those assets, you’ll want to gather those. Likewise, you’ll need to document your salary and whatever’s in your checking and/or savings accounts. Your lawyer will also want copies of your financial records, so you should gather things like utility bill statements, tax returns, car titles, and so forth.

We usually give our clients this list of preliminary documents we’d like them to assemble, and you can also check out this blog post for more ideas of what we’d like you to gather.

Keep your debts light

Don’t take on any short-term debt. Until a divorce is final, generally any credit card debt that is incurred by either spouse is going to be considered marital debt.

If you don’t like that your spouse is using the credit card to extremes and accruing credit card debt, the remedy, as far as our courts are concerned, is to file a complaint for divorce. If you’re not ready for that step, the court will presume that you’re perfectly OK with such spending.

Speaking of that…

Pay almost daily attention to your checking accounts

You’ll want to make sure there’s no unusual activity in your accounts. If an account is being unreasonably depleted, talk to your lawyer about next steps. Once a complaint for divorce is filed, restraining orders may be issued that will prohibit the use of any asset that is individually or jointly titled. Restraining orders in a divorce won’t generally cover checking accounts, however.

Close joint accounts and open separate ones?

Not quite yet. It might go without saying, but if you’re still in the planning and/or consideration stages of a divorce, you might not want to close any joint banking accounts right away, particularly if that will alert your spouse that something’s amiss.

At some point, when it’s clear that a divorce is imminent, if access to funds will be a concern we may advise our client to go ahead and remove money from a joint account and put it into his or her individual checking account. But in almost all circumstances, we will also advise the client not to take more than fifty percent of those joint funds. Taking more than half might be seen less as a means of guaranteeing access to cash and more of a declaration of war. It gets the process started off on a bad foot.

Even if you’re concerned your spouse might drain you financially prior to the divorce, it’s still wise to consult with a lawyer prior to closing or emptying any joint accounts you might have.

Determine what you need to live on

Set a budget. Get a credit report if you haven’t lately. Consult with an independent financial advisor. Many couples share a single financial advisor, but unless you’re 100 percent sure the advisor will consider himself your advisor and will keep everything close to the vest, it may be better to seek independent advice for financial planning.

Be wary of social media

If a divorce is imminent and finances are a concern, it probably goes without saying that you don’t want to go around flaunting a vacation with your new paramour, nor brag about your new truck, Air Jordan sneakers or other expensive purchases.

Take a hard look at what you’ve already said and done on social media websites, and use the cringe test as your guide. If there is some picture or comment that common sense says won’t help you with the judge, then take it down.

Reach out to Babbitt & Dahlberg today

Marriages do end, and they can end for a variety of reasons. And when they do, you’ll want someone you can trust fully in your corner. At Babbitt & Dahlberg, we have more than 45 years of combined experience, plus national recognition by organizations such as Best Lawyers in America, the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and Super Lawyers. Get in touch with our team today.