Getting financially ready for divorce

Getting financially ready for a divorce is necessary, even in amicable divorces. Both sides deserve to know about marital assets and debts.

Divorce is rarely "easy" on a person's finances in Texas. Even in a simple, friendly divorce, both people must plan to live separately and to be responsible in full for many, if not all, of the bills incurred in the two households.

But what if you have a complicated divorce? Perhaps one spouse is (or could be) hiding assets, the other spouse stays at home to raise the kids and has no independent income, and they have one or more businesses and have been married 15 years. There is a lot to untangle in that situation.

The bottom line: Whether a divorce promises to be relatively simple, complex or somewhere in the middle, a few steps can help men and women get as financially ready as possible. Here is a look at some of them.

Copies of paperwork

An important step is to make sure that the spouse preparing for divorce gets copies of critical documents such as pay stubs, loan paperwork, loan statements, tax returns, bank account statements, investment statements, retirement plan statements and any real estate valuations, among other financial documentation.

Texas is a community property state. Spouses may have had separate property before the marriage that they have kept fully separate (for example, not putting money inherited into a joint account). However, if one spouse's retirement account has grown or a business has grown, that growth is usually going to be community property, and both spouses have a claim to it. If a business was opened during the marriage and not before, both spouses could have an even greater claim to its value.

In other words, getting financially ready for a divorce means getting copies of both spouses' information, if that is feasible, and also keeping copies of documents from just prior to the divorce.

Access to accounts

To get all of that information, access to online accounts is probably necessary. Because one spouse may shut the other out or may have changed shared passwords after a divorce filing, it is imperative that a spouse trying to prepare financially gets that information as soon as possible.

Of course, one spouse might not have access to the other's separate accounts and should not "break into" them or hack them to get information. A lawyer can help access that information later, but it helps at the beginning if the spouse has a good idea of everyone's financial situation. Credit checks/credit reports also provide insight into the big picture and are vital.

Saving money

If the divorce may turn into a mud-slinging exercise (and perhaps even if it does not), preparation also includes saving money in an account separate from the other spouse's accounts, if possible. For example, spouses can change direct deposit paperwork to get paychecks deposited in separate accounts instead of a joint account. Otherwise, one spouse could blow all of the money in a joint account on an extravagant purchase, leaving little money left for the other spouse to live on until that matter is resolved.

An experienced Board-Certified Family Law expert attorney can help a husband or a wife in Texas who is contemplating divorce get their finances in order before filing. It is possible to get finances in shape after a filing, but the best time to begin is before. Many counties, such as Collin County, Texas, limit each side to only a few minutes at a initial hearing for Temporary Orders to present testimony, evidence, witnesses, and argument, so having the information you need ready before the first hearing can be very important in your case.