If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, you are now facing the prospect of property division, and you are dreading it.
The good news is that, if you take the time to prepare well, the property division aspect of your divorce proceeding will go much more smoothly than you anticipate.
Marital asset basics
The court considers items you acquired or gifts you gave to each other during your marriage to be marital assets. These require identification along with items the court considers separate property, such as your engagement ring or the vintage sports car your spouse has had since college. Once this is complete, each asset receives a value assignment.
Managing joint accounts
Your attorney will want the information pertaining to your bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, mortgages, deeds and related items. If you and your spouse have joint bank, credit card or investment accounts, you should consider closing them and opening accounts in your own names. If you cannot separate the accounts cannot for some reason prior to the divorce, neither of you should use the accounts and incur more debt. If you continue to maintain a joint checking account, there should be a written agreement that describes what to use the account for. It is a good idea to require both your signature and the signature of your spouse on any checks you write.
You may believe your spouse has been spending money foolishly or has engaged in an affair and been giving money to the new romantic interest. There may have been expensive gifts or trips financed by your marital assets. The court will take a dim view of this kind of activity and will either order your spouse to repay the assets or take less in the final property settlement.
An experienced divorce attorney will tell you there are other steps you can take. For example, you could freeze your investments to prevent misuse of the funds pending the divorce. Ending a marriage is never easy, but with smart planning, the entire process will be much easier.