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Preparing financially for a divorce

Before filing for divorce, spouses in Dallas should take precautions for protecting their property and income. This is particularly important for spouses who suspect that their soon-to-be former spouse will hide assets or that the divorce will be bitter. Stay-at-home parents who did not work also have rights to the money their spouse earned and should also safeguard these rights.

Spouses should not file for divorce until they have enough money for living expenses for at least three months and legal fees. This requires saving as much money as possible, avoiding new debt and using cash instead of credit cards.

Before filing, a spouse needs evidence of their valuables and sources of cash. Taking pictures of marital possessions, making copies of bank and investment account statements and keeping this information in a safe place helps ensure that a spouse keeps important proof.

Opening a savings and checking account under one name is another important step for a spouse. The other spouse should be notified of these accounts and the amount of money deposited to avoid accusations that they are hiding marital property.

A spouse needs to pay off and close all joint credit accounts held by the couple including everything from store credit cards to home mortgages. If a spouse cannot pay off these accounts, they should speak to their creditors and seek information on removing their name from these accounts. They may also negotiate dividing this debt and agreeing to pay it off later when the spouse is working. Changing the signature authority on joint accounts requiring both signatures for a transaction is another option.

Obtaining credit reports helps reveals whether the other spouse has hidden credit accounts in their name or made unwise financial decisions that impact both spouses' credit. Access to credit reports also allows a spouse to improve their credit by addressing problems.

Protecting information and privacy is also essential. Opening a post office box, for example, helps ensure that the other spouse cannot intercept important documents.

Removing financial and information imbalances helps equalizes the spouses' ability to negotiate. Knowing the value of large assets, such as both parties' retirement accounts, gives a spouse more negotiating power.

A divorce decree may have numerous financial consequences. An attorney can provide advice on preparing for divorce and options on property division and seeking spousal maintenance.

Source: The Good Men Project, "11 tips for protecting your money during divorce," March 23, 2018

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