Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Friday, July 14, 2017

Tips for Safeguarding Your Finances During a Hostile Divorce

They say ‘all good things must come to an end,’ but in the case of marriage sometimes that good thing ends in a messy divorce.  When loving has been replaced by loathing, it’s not uncommon for a soon-to-be ex-spouse to do their best to cause their former partner pain, especially financial pain.  

The good news is that if you’re currently in or about to be in a hostile divorce situation, there are steps you can take to protect your assets for the future, including talking with an experienced family law lawyer.

Stop Hemorrhaging Funds

One of the first steps you should take is to “stop the bleeding.”  In other words, make sure your former partner doesn’t have the ability to spend all of your money or rack up new debts.  Start by closing any joint accounts you may have.  For example, if you have a joint credit card, contact the card issuer immediately and have them close the account to future purchases.  You won’t be able to close your account entirely if you still owe a balance, but at least your partner won’t be able to buy a new Lamborghini on your credit.  

If you still need access to credit, apply for a new account in your own name only.  If you’re worried your former spouse might try to run up your credit, it’s also a good idea to send a letter to each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) letting them know you’re going through a hostile divorce and that you would like the letter included in your credit file just in case something happens.

If you have a joint bank account, closing that can be a little trickier.  You need to take steps to protect your interests—after all, you don’t want your partner to empty the account—but at the same time, it’s probably not fair for you to ignore your partner’s interests, either; he or she also won’t want YOU to drain the account!  If you have a joint bank account, speak with an attorney before making changes to it.  You may be able to “freeze” the account, meaning neither of you can take the money out until the divorce is settled, or you may be able to alter the account to require each of you to sign for withdrawals, so neither of you can take money out without the other partner knowing.  Either way, it’s probably a good idea to open and start using an account of your own.

Secure Your Financial Documents

After you’ve taken steps to prevent your partner from digging you a financial hole, you need to start taking steps to protect your information.  If you have access to a scanner, it’s a good idea to scan your financial documents and store them digitally in a secure cloud storage server.  That way even if something happens to the originals, you can still access the information.  

If you can’t store your documents in the cloud, you should at least make copies and store them somewhere secure that your former partner can’t access them—a drawer at work, your brother’s house, a safety deposit box, etc.  Change all of your passwords!  Even if your partner doesn’t know them, change them anyway; you can never be too careful.  It’s also a good idea to go to the post office and open a PO Box for important mail you want to be sure your former partner can’t get access to.

Talk to a Divorce Attorney

Finally, once you’ve protected yourself and your future, get credit reports for both you and your partner.  The only way to be sure there’s no nasty financial surprise waiting for you is to do a thorough investigation.  Our staff and attorneys are experienced experts in handling these issues, so if you’re worried about a hostile divorce, please call us today to set up a free consultation at 516-228-9181.

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