There are some critical steps to take when separating your financial assets from your spouse. Your first financial priority should be to cancel jointly held bank cards and to protect joint financial accounts. Be sure to do this prior to informing your spouse. Cancel your joint credit cards and then inform your spouse in writing that they have been canceled. The joint debt must be paid, so make sure you address that issue.
Then, take half of each of your joint accounts, transfer them into a separate account, and then be sure to inform your spouse in writing that you have done so. Make sure, again, to arrange for payment of outstanding joint bills. As long as half of the money is rightfully yours, this is not playing against the rules.
Be sure to keep in mind that any retirement accounts which were funded during the duration of the marriage contain community property – i.e., it belongs to both spouses. As such, your spouse will be entitled to some of that money. This includes pensions, IRAs, and 401(k) accounts. Stop regular contributions. Once you have separated, this money will become your separate property. Taking this step provides you with more liquid assets (available cash) to make up for increased expenses created by a divorce.
Ensure that all valuable personal property — including sentimental items — is protected. Items that cannot be replaced should be taken out of the home and stored in a safe place. This same adage can be used for firearms, as they have no place in a separating household. When possible, discuss this with your spouse first in order to avoid any allegations that items have disappeared.
Finally, make copies of all records, separate and joint. This includes deeds, titles, real estate records, bank statements, tax returns, and tax preparation documents. Your attorney will need these documents and ensuring that you have copies early will reduce the need for costly discovery later if the case becomes litigious.
Separating financial assets and property can be a tricky endeavor in the event of an impending divorce. If you are unsure about how to proceed, be sure to seek the advice of a knowledgeable family law attorney.