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How to prepare financially before asking for divorce

Something as life-changing as filing for divorce should not be taken likely. Besides the end of your relationship to your spouse and the possible changes to how often you see your children, you also have to make sure you can afford to live on your own.

This means preparing your finances as soon as possible, preferably before you even tell your spouse that you want a divorce. This can be tricky, especially if your spouse has always been the one in charge of paying the bills, your retirement savings and so on. But you should not go into divorce in the dark about the extent of the marital assets. Marital assets are the cash, real estate and other valuable assets jointly owned by you and your spouse. In Ohio, marital assets must be divided equitably between divorcing spouses. But if you don’t know everything that is in the marital assets pot, you cannot negotiate a property division settlement that is fair and sustainable for you.

Here are four tips for how to start setting yourself up financially before filing for divorce.

1. Get all the documents

Collect copies of all your household’s important financial documents, such as:

  • Bank statements for the past year
  • Retirement and investment account statements
  • Ledgers for your mortgage, auto loans and personal loans from the past year
  • Pay stubs from the past year
  • Income tax returns for the past three years

The more documentation you have, the better your divorce attorney will be able to know your financial picture, and what you could expect to get in property division, child support and spousal maintenance.

2. Don’t splurge on spending

This is not the time to start spending more money than usual. Dipping into your joint bank accounts for more than you would normally spend will not help you in the long run, and could even hurt your case during your divorce. The only possible exception would be to set aside some funds for attorneys fees, if you can do so without your spouse knowing.

3. Wait to change your will

Naturally, you probably no longer want your spouse to be the primary beneficiary of your estate plan or life insurance policy. But don’t jump the gun. Wait until you have already filed for divorce, and follow your attorney’s advice for changing your beneficiaries.

4. Consult financial experts — but be careful

If your financial holdings are complex enough, you might benefit from consulting experts like an accountant, investment advisor or financial consultant. But be aware that, unlike attorneys, what you say or write to these advisors is not privileged. That means your conversations and correspondence could end up being used against you.

For more information about what to do before you tell your spouse you want a divorce, consult a divorce attorney.