As much as you may have tried to be a team player during your marriage, if you are heading toward divorce, it’s time to start taking steps to protect yourself. Naturally, if you have children, their needs come first. However, you must do everything you can to ensure your financial future is secure.
The longer you have been married, the more complicated your finances may be to separate. You may find it helpful to reach out for professional guidance regarding Illinois laws for asset division. You can also take some practical steps toward separating your financial identity from your spouse’s.
Are you ready?
Sadly, many spouses wait too long before gathering the documents they need to assist them in obtaining a fair and equitable division of assets. It is not uncommon for one spouse to withhold important information, such as salary amounts or account passwords. Therefore, you will want to gather and make copies of critical financial information, such as bank accounts, retirement funds, investments, mortgages and other documents. Take pictures of your assets and inventory everything of value. The following steps can also protect you:
- Pay off as much joint debt as possible. Otherwise, your creditors can still hold you responsible for debts the court assigns to your spouse.
- Close any joint credit card accounts and remove your spouse as an authorized user of any individual accounts. Avoid accruing more debt during the divorce process.
- Open a separate checking and savings account in your own name. Consult your attorney for advice about withdrawing money from joint bank accounts.
- Obtain copies of credit reports for both you and your spouse.
- Educate yourself about your household finances, and the exact amount of income and debt you share with your spouse.
- Learn the value of any retirement or pension accounts and any other investments.
- Rent a post office box where you can receive confidential information about your divorce and your new bank accounts.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be concerned about the drop in your income after the divorce, especially if you left work to raise children or your spouse earns significantly more than you. You will want to discuss with your attorney the advantages and disadvantages of seeking spousal support, but you may also benefit from starting to increase your own earning capability. This may include going to school or receiving additional training. Your attorney can advise you on the most appropriate steps to take for your situation.