How to Protect your Finances When Considering Divorce
When you and your spouse are contemplating separation or divorce, it is important to consider specific actions to safeguard your assets from dissipation by your spouse. The likelihood of your spouse taking actions against which you must protect yourself must be weighed against the likelihood that taking those protections will anger or alienate your spouse, making swift and amicable resolution of the divorce more difficult. Discuss the following eventualities with your divorce attorney. Most Florida courts issue a Standing Order, which prohibits either party from dissipating assets or closing accounts once a divorce is filed.
If you and your spouse have any joint financial accounts, it is likely that either of you may withdraw the entire balance at any time. Two possible precautionary actions to take are to withdraw what is rightfully yours, leaving the account in place, or to close the account by way of separate checks issued to each spouse. However, keep a close accounting of any monies spent, in case the court wants to know where the money went. Consider carefully whether you believe your spouse might make unreasonable withdrawals from the accounts and be sure to consult with your attorney before taking these steps. This action in particular may exacerbate tension between the parties. In Florida, actions take which will prejudice the other party, such as closing accounts leaving them with no access or means of support may result in serious adverse sanctions by the court against the party closing the account.
Set up new accounts solely in your name to replace the joint account. Make sure any direct deposits from your employer or between your accounts go to your individual accounts.
If you co-rent a safety deposit box, write down a careful inventory of its contents and consider whether to remove anything. At the very least, make copies of documents therein.
Loans and Credit Cards
If you and your spouse both signed an application for a loan or credit card, or the statements are addressed to both of you, the account is joint, and you are liable for amounts owed. If you believe your spouse will run up the credit line, then speak with an attorney and file quickly, as generally the date of filing is the date that is used for division of liabilities. If you and your spouse are in agreement you may close the account to further purchases by either party. Obtain a credit report to make sure you are aware of all accounts that are open in your name.
Locate and safeguard the records of all finances that are solely yours, and obtain either originals or copies of records of all joint accounts. This includes tax returns, account statements, checkbook ledgers, insurance policies, credit card bills, and loan applications.
Consider opening a post office box or mailbox in order to receive sensitive mail outside your home. Have all financial and legal information sent to the new address. Change your passwords for your email, voicemail, computer, smart phone, and online financial accounts. Even if you do not recall giving your spouse a password, you may have mentioned it in the past or your spouse may have otherwise obtained it.
Make sure you have your own copy of keys to vehicles that are owned jointly. If possible, ensure that your spouse does not have a key to a vehicle that is solely yours.
If you and your spouse remain amicable despite facing the possible end of your marriage, and you feel certain he or she would not violate your trust, these precautionary measures may not be necessary. If you are unsure, go over this list with your attorney to decide what steps to take.