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5 Ways to protect yourself in divorce

Divorce can be devastating, especially for the spouse who has not been involved with the family's finances. Has your spouse hidden assets or income from you? Has your spouse always made the financial decisions for your family? Has your spouse left you? If yes, you need to take steps now to protect yourself.


Talking to a great divorce lawyer


If your spouse has abandoned the marriage it is time for you to get to work to protect yourself. Gather information about your spouse's income and assets, make copies of important financial records, and make sure you have your most recent tax returns, credit card statements, checking and savings account information, and retirement data. Talk to your divorce lawyer about ways to protect your spouse from transferring or hiding assets. In some cases, you may be able to obtain a restraining order from the court.

Fight for a good settlement offer to protect yourself


If you are armed with accurate financial data it is much easier to make good financial decisions. It's true that women and children generally accept a lower standard of living following divorce, but if your spouse is trying to get you to accept a settlement offer that will not allow you enough money to live on, it is not a good offer. There is no reason to be combative, angry, vindictive, or mean, but you need to verify the numbers and make sure the settlement offer is fair.

Consider mediation


Now more than ever spouses are using mediation to avoid costly legal battles. The good news is that mediation may be a great way to settle many divorce issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division without going to court.

Mediation will give you flexibility, in contrast to a court trial which may allow the judge to make the decisions for you and your family. It also allows you to work with a third party negotiator who may be able to help you and your spouse work through difficult issues.

Mediation is also not binding, and it is voluntary. If mediation does not work it may still be possible for you and your spouse to allow a court to make certain decisions for you.

Consider working with a tax consultant to protect yourself


Wait until after the divorce to consider tax implications and you could dramatically increase the total taxes you and your spouse have to pay. If your spouse is willing, it may be a good idea to discuss your tax issues with a certified tax consultant before and during the divorce.

Produce an accurate budget to protect yourself


As mentioned above, divorce is likely to decrease your disposable income. Even if you are the primary wage earner it can be very expensive to maintain two households. With this in mind, it is a good idea to create an accurate budget before the divorce.

Remember to consider all tax implications in your budget, including the taxes you may owe if you are given certain marital assets. Finally, be careful not to underestimate living expenses and talk to a financial adviser if you need help.