Financial Tips on How to Prepare for Divorce

Hayli Dickey

Special article brought to you by IntegraLAW

Hi! My name is Hayli Dickey, and I am an associate attorney at IntegraLaw. I focus mainly on Family Law and regularly find myself advising clients about how to prepare for divorce. Often, my clients are still living with their spouse, which means careful planning is necessary. Here are two suggestions I offer anyone planning to initiate a divorce action:

Married couples commonly combine most of their finances and accounts. A family dynamic I come across often includes one party who has acted as the main breadwinner and the other party who has mainly raised the children and cared for the home. Under these circumstances, the party who has mainly raised the children and cared for the home likely has no access to income. This becomes problematic when the parties start to unmingle their finances and one party no longer has access to incoming money for support during the divorce proceedings. Plan for your divorce by making sure you have access to financial resources. Neither party should be depleting the marital property, but it is common practice for a spouse who is not working to take one-half of the money held in the parties’ joint checking and savings accounts, and deposit those funds into a new personal account. This money may be used for the party’s needs during the divorce.

Full financial disclosures are required as part of a divorce proceeding. These financial disclosures are intended to give both parties a comprehensive understanding of their assets and debts.

However, sometimes assets are hidden or not disclosed. Hidden assets are not easily found, and it is especially difficult to find unknown assets. To hinder the possibility of hidden assets (and debts), both parties should know and have a clear understanding of the family finances, both debts and assets. Too often, one party is in charge of paying bills and keeping the family finances, and the other party has no idea what is coming in or going out. The party without that knowledge is left vulnerable in a divorce proceeding, specifically when the parties or the court is determining how the assets should be equitably divided. You should know your family’s finances, and make sure you have access to and/or copies of that information prior to initiating the divorce proceedings. It is helpful to gather copies of the family financial documents (taxes, bank accounts, credit cards, loan documents, retirement accounts, etc.) for the last three years before you initiate divorce proceedings.

Both of these suggestions are intended to help the parties meaningfully and honestly participate in a divorce action. Most family law cases will settle with an agreement between the parties, but the best settlements occur when the parties are on an even playing field, and each has access to information and funding.

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