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Pre-Divorce Planning

As soon as you start thinking about divorce or suspect your spouse is thinking about divorce, there are steps you can take to reduce the cost of your divorce and to put you and your lawyer in a stronger negotiating position.

1.  Substantiate your net worth.
2.  Determine the cost of your family's lifestyle.
3.  Keep better control over your finances.
4.  Take steps to protect yourself.
5.  Assemble a team of professionals.

1. Substantiate your net worth.

You will need to put together a comprehensive list of the family assets (what you own), and liabilities (what you owe).

It is very important to make photocopies of financial documents and store them in a secure place, such as a friend's home or a new safe deposit box in a distant bank. This may not the time to be obvious, but these steps should be taken as soon as possible. Frequently when divorce is anticipated, documents that were once readily available tend to disappear.

A detailed list of documents can be accessed at Resources.

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2. Determine the cost of your family's lifestyle.

How much has your family earned and spent in the past few years? Gather together check registers, bank statements, credit card statements, etc. and extract detailed information. You can use personal financial software, a computer spreadsheet program or an accounting pad to manually track information. Income should be identified as to source, ex. salary, bonuses, commissions, interest, gifts, etc. Detailed information should be gathered for expenditures.

A detailed list of expense categories can be accessed at Resources.

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3. Keep better control over your finances.

Use a check or credit card to pay for as many expenses as possible, as a method of tracking expenditures. Keep a log and track your cash purchases on a daily basis. Now is not a good time to build up unnecessary debt.

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4. Take steps to protect yourself.

Cash - Establish a cash fund for yourself if you do not already have one. Do not rely on joint accounts to provide you with cash in an emergency; it may not be there when you need it. Establish an account in your own name, or jointly with a trusted relative or friend, or use travelers checks to keep a supply of emergency cash.

Credit - Establish credit in your own name if you have not already done so.

Mail - Have sensitive mail sent to your office, a friend's address, or open a mailbox. One of the local mail service centers provides you with a front door key and 24 hour access.

Social Security - Request a personal earnings and benefits statement (PEBES FORM SSA-7004) for yourself and one for your spouse from the Social Security Administration. You might end up collecting on your spouse's record, and after divorce your spouse's information will not be readily available to you.

Social Security Administration     800-772-1213

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5. Assemble a team of professionals.

You will need a lawyer to address the legal issues, and you will require the expertise of a certified divorce planner for financial issues.

A financial divorce specialist can help guide and advise through this crucial step in the divorce process. The steps you take now can produce a less costly divorce, a quicker settlement and give you greater control over the divorce process. As in business, divorce negotiations are frequently won by the one who is most organized and has the best records.