Just as finances can be a major source of contention in a marriage, they can be even more so during a divorce. Disentangling your ex-spouse’s finances from your own may be no simple task, especially with shared assets like home and vehicles, or with shared debts. This process can be even more complicated with an uncooperative ex, or one who happens to be fiscally irresponsible.

You might be tempted to avoid or procrastinate the task of financial disentanglement, but resist this temptation to protect both your assets and your credit. Some of the details of dividing larger assets will obviously be worked out during the divorce settlement negotiations, but for now, here are some steps you can take now to begin disentangling your ex-spouse’s finances from your own.

Set up your own bank accounts

If you haven’t done so already, open up a basic checking and savings account in your own name, and start paying bills and depositing paychecks into that account. If you still hold joint bank accounts with your ex, close these accounts as soon as possible, but do not attempt to withdraw funds without talking to your divorce attorney first, as these funds may be restricted until a divorce settlement is reached. When it comes to your own income, however, you should gain sole control of these funds as quickly as possible.

Separating credit card accounts

For any revolving credit card accounts you share with your ex, take these steps now to begin the disentanglement process:

•    Close any joint credit cards you have with your ex-spouse as soon as possible. This protects you from being held responsible if your ex decides to go on a shopping spree.

•    De-authorize your ex on any credit cards for which you are the primary cardholder.

•    Disentangle from joint cards with existing balances by opening up new cards separately and performing balance transfers. You and your ex will need to agree to how much of the debt each of you should pay, but once that’s decided, transferring those balances to your own individual credit cards will start the process of separating your shared credit history—plus, you won’t have the added worry of making sure the joint cards are being paid on time.

For larger assets like homes, cars and shared business interests, disentangling your finances will be a more complex matter reserved for the divorce settlement negotiations. But taking steps now to separate finances on a smaller scale can help you get a head start on financial stability as a single person.

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Photo of Jason C. Brown Jason C. Brown

Jason C. Brown has represented a wide variety of family law clients over the last 20 years, including teachers, homemakers, union construction workers, doctors, truck drivers, accountants, business owners, engineers, lawyers, mortgage brokers and Fortune 500 executives. Many of his cases have involved…

Jason C. Brown has represented a wide variety of family law clients over the last 20 years, including teachers, homemakers, union construction workers, doctors, truck drivers, accountants, business owners, engineers, lawyers, mortgage brokers and Fortune 500 executives. Many of his cases have involved complex custody disputes, alimony claims, and high net worth individuals, including several divorces in which the value of the marital estate exceeded ten million dollars. Every client, no matter their background, is important to Jason.

Jason routinely provides mediation services for family court litigants. He was a longtime board member and corporate secretary for Northgate Church in Ramsey. Early in his career, Jason served as law clerk to the Honorable Timothy R. Bloomquist, retired Chief Judge of Minnesota’s Tenth Judicial District.