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Preparing for a Divorce

To prepare for a divorce, the first thing you should do is schedule a meeting with a divorce attorney. You'll want to learn the requirements for obtaining a divorce in your state as soon as possible.

Be sure to discuss your overall financial situation, including options for dividing your assets and any concerns you may have about alimony and child support. The following guidelines will help you prepare.

Get organized.

Before speaking with your attorney, take inventory of the assets you share and those you own individually.

Gather and review important documents such as:

  • Prenuptial agreement
  • Estate plan documents (will, trusts, etc.)
  • Personal net worth statement with bank, brokerage and retirement account statements
  • Business financial statements
  • Monthly cash flow statement
  • Insurance policies (such as life, health, auto, homeowner's or renters)
  • Tax returns for the past five years
  • Mortgage or home equity loan statements
  • Outstanding bills or obligations
  • Real property deeds and motor vehicle titles
  • Inventory of household goods, personal belongings and safe-deposit boxes

You'll also want to start thinking about how best to divide retirement account assets, paying particular attention to the tax implications.

Our financial inventory worksheet (PDF) will help you focus on the information you need.

Establish your own credit.

Make sure your name is listed on all household accounts and investments.

If you don't already have at least one major credit card in your name only, open one immediately. This will help you establish your personal creditworthiness—an essential once you're on your own.

Learn more about managing credit and debt

Realistically review your finances.

Start by listing all income and expenses to see where you stand financially. Then decide what you need to support yourself and any dependent children you may have. Be sure to do the following:

  • Calculate what you'll need for monthly living expenses.
  • Project childcare costs and tuition expenses.
  • Think about other big ticket items such as orthodontics or extracurricular programs.
  • Plan for college costs.

Our monthly budget planner can help you make realistic calculations.

Our Two Cents
If you're on relatively friendly terms with your spouse, you may want to consider mediation. For a list of certified mediators in your area, contact the Academy of Family Mediators.


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The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal, or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner, or investment manager.

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