Even the thought of divorce can be devastating when you realize your once-loving relationship is over with the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with. Worries over your future financial well-being further complicate those emotions.
Divorce is never easy, even when spouses still get along and agree that going their separate ways is for the best. It’s important to remember that better days are ahead, and you can relieve some of the angst over a divorce by getting organized.
Three steps to prepare for divorce
Knowledge is power, and in addition to working with an experienced divorce attorney, you can take some control of the process by educating yourself about your financial situation. This is especially important for spouses who do not usually handle the family finances. Three things you can do are:
Take inventory: List all the accounts you and your spouse currently have separately and together. Get documents for all financial items, including:
- Bank statements
- Investment accounts
- Retirement plans
- Insurance policies
- Real estate deeds
- Mortgage documents
- Personal loan documentation
- Estate planning information such as wills and trusts
- Credit card statements
- List of marital and nonmarital property
- Personal financial statements and balance sheets
Organize your documents: Once you’ve gathered this information, develop a system to help your lawyer and other advisors find the documents they need quickly and efficiently. This will save you time and money. One example is putting all homeownership paperwork together.
Classify assets: Once you have identified and sorted these assets, it’s time to determine which property is subject to division. Missouri is a dual-property state, meaning all assets are broken down into marital and nonmarital property. All marital property is divided equitably, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be an equal split. Your attorney will help you classify complex assets, such as business interests, inheritance, retirement funds, or property owned prior to marriage.
Prepare for divorce as soon as possible
It’s crucial to identify these assets as soon as you know you are headed for divorce, especially if you don’t normally handle financial matters for the family. Controlling spouses will sometimes try to keep this information from being easily accessible once a divorce is on the table.
Doing your homework about your finances ahead of time will help set you up for a fair and equitable outcome. Knowledge is power, and understanding your financial situation ahead of time not only gives you a picture of where you stand now but also for your new life. It can also provide added benefits by relieving some of the anxiety and stress that the process naturally creates.