Marriage is supposed to be a partnership, and you may envy couples who seem to be in perfect sync, especially when it comes to their finances. More often, however, one spouse may have better access or more control over the money, and the other spouse voluntarily relinquishes that responsibility.
If you are in this situation and your marriage is coming to an end, you may be justifiably concerned about your future. It is important that you discuss your goals with your attorney and take some critical steps now to protect yourself.
Do this as early as possible
Pennsylvania law stipulates that marital property is everything you and your spouse acquire from the date of your marriage until you separate. This includes your salaries. Even if you left your job to raise children at home, you are still entitled to half your spouse’s salary or a comparable division of your joint assets. However, this may not be adequate to support you after the divorce, so you will want to start building your own financial stability, beginning with the following steps:
- Open your own checking and savings accounts. This should not be a secret from your spouse, and you should let him or her know if you are taking money from your joint account to do so.
- Have your new financial information sent to a post office box.
- Pay off as many joint credit cards and loans as you can before filing for divorce and close those accounts, or work with your creditors to have your name removed from any accounts your spouse primarily used.
- Remove your spouse as an authorized user from any individual credit cards.
- Change the signature authority on your joint bank accounts to require both your signatures, or discuss with your attorney the option of withdrawing half the money in the joint account and placing it in your own account.
- Protect any valuable possessions you fear your spouse may destroy or take, but let your spouse know you have done this to avoid accusations of hiding assets.
- Avoid the temptation to spend, including racking up debt on your credit card, so you don’t enter your new life with new debt.
- Obtain copies of credit reports for you and your spouse.
- Learn everything you can about your joint finances, including any investments, your spouse’s income and all your debt.
There may be different or additional suggestions your attorney can make. The point is to gather information, protect what you own and be proactive against the challenges of your post-divorce life. With the right preparation and representation, you may greatly reduce your chances of struggle.