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5 financial separations that should be handled before a divorce

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While a divorce can be messy in many different ways, finances have a tendency to be a big part of the argument and frustration that many couples and families face as they split up. As you go through big changes in your life, you can protect your assets and your finances by separating certain things before you file for divorce. Because the classification of separate and marital property differs from state to state, it's helpful to get a handle on your financial situation before actually making your filing.

1. Utilities

Before you file for divorce, make sure that all utilities at your current home are placed under your name, as long as you are the one staying in the home. This ensures that you can make changes where necessary and access information that may be considered confidential if you aren't on the account.

2. Checking and savings accounts

Once the divorce is complete, your finances will be completely separate, so it's easier to start the process early. Open your own checking and savings accounts and start separating your money now to avoid contention and confusion in the future. You may also want to have your direct deposit changed if that's how your paycheck is sent.

3. Joint credit cards

If you have accrued debt together, you will want to get your name off any jointly owned credit accounts or cards before filing for divorce. This ensures that you aren't liable for any purchases that are made after the divorce is final. If your name remains on the account and your ex defaults on payments, you will be responsible and it may negatively affect your credit.

4. Insurance plans

As a married couple, it's likely that you have a joint auto insurance policy, renters insurance or life insurance. You'll want to separate these into your own policies before filing for divorce to guarantee that you aren't dropped from a policy and without insurance without notice. If you rely on your spouse for health insurance, you will also need to find your own policy or speak to your place of employment about benefits.

5. Remove name from bills

You will also want to remove your name from any bills, car loans or mortgages on your home. Your debt may be settled during the divorce, but you don't want to be held responsible for something you no longer own.

Divorce can be a complicated, frustrating affair, especially if you've never dealt with the situation before. To simplify the process, an attorney may be able to answer questions you have about your finances before you file for divorce.

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