If your marriage is on a one-way street to divorce court you have to take precautions immediately in order to protect what you’ve worked so hard to achieve so far and to protect your financial future as well. This is especially true if you have joint accounts with your spouse.
Any earnings your spouse brings home goes out the door when he or she does. On top of that, once you split up you may not qualify for loans that you could qualify for when you were together. And that’s the good news. It gets worse.
Your other half can wreck your credit while you are still together if he or she is a bad egg. And it may take years to undo the mess they create. You don’t want to be in either scene.
The good news is there are 5 ways to protect yourself from your spouse’s financial ineptitude or malice or both. And here’s a bonus; if you take the following 5 precautions, it makes it much easier to protect your assets during the divorce. On top of that, it sends a strong message that just might wake your partner up. In turn, that could potentially save the relationship. Either way, here are 5 must-do steps to take once your relationship looks like it’s “going Gettysburg’.
1. Close Joint Credit Cards
If you have a joint card with someone and you don’t want to be responsible for their continued spending, contact the credit card company NOW. Tell them to close the account to future purchases. After the call, follow up with a certified letter.
They won’t be able to close the account completely until the balance is paid in full. That means you are responsible for the charges and balance (including interest) up until the time you contact them. But this is an important step and it limits the damage. Once you put a lid on any potential credit card problems, apply for a card in your own name and use it exclusively.
2. Investment and Bank Accounts
Most joint accounts are set up to allow either party to withdraw money. Under normal conditions that is fine. But if you are afraid of being cleaned out by Mr. or Mrs. X, you have to take action before the horses get out of the barn.
Just remember that you have to proceed cautiously. If you empty the accounts as a precautionary measure you might set yourself up for legal problems down the line. My suggestion is to contact an attorney immediately and ask them what to do. You may be directed to call the banks and brokerage firms and have they put a freeze on the accounts. Alternatively, you might be able to change the accounts to require both signatures rather than just one to make withdrawals. Either way, get expert advice and then take action before things go nuclear.
3. Protect Your Data
Make sure you have copies of all your financial data including tax returns. Then, change all your passwords. Enough said.
4. Protect Your Mail
You are building your own financial life right now that is separate and apart from your current partner. That means you’ll need to get your own mail and maintain your privacy. The best way to do that is to set up a PO Box and have your mail delivered there rather than to the house or apartment. Don’t wait until things get ugly and your spouse uses your mail to make paper mache Voo Doo dolls in your likeness.
5. Get A Credit Report
I am truly sorry to tell you this, but no matter how benevolent or benign you think your spouse is, you have no idea what they’ve done to their own credit. And if they’ve messed up their own credit they’ve hurt yours as well. People can always surprise you and it’s not always with cake and candles. You need to get your credit report so you can fix any problems and/or mistakes before they impact your financial life.
Unfortunately, I have more unnerving news for you. Your spouse could be living a double life. If that’s the case, your credit report might be the best way to uncover financial secrets your partner has been keeping. Get the report and keep a close watch on your credit history.
Breaking up really is hard to do. The emotional drain can be devastating. The last thing you need is a financial and credit problem piled on top. Take care of yourself by taking these 5 steps.
What other tips do you have for people who are splitting up? Have you ever gone through this process? Looking back, what would you do differently?