By: Shawn Leamon, NerdWallet
When going through a divorce, it’s important to protect your personal finances as much as possible — regardless of how amicable the separation may be. If you’re not careful, actions taken by you or your soon-to-be-ex during the divorce process could have serious, long-term implications for your credit.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to better protect your finances as you go through your divorce.
Collect as much documentation as possible
When it comes time to divide assets, documentation will be key. Ideally, you should have copies of at least the last three to four years’ worth of financial statements — from both joint and individual accounts.
This will be especially important in a scenario where your soon-to-be-ex makes large purchases with a joint account before the divorce is finalized. You’ll need to be able to prove that the purchases were made during the divorce process, and documentation can go a long way here.
Consult with an experienced divorce attorney
Even if you anticipate your divorce to be relatively amicable and peaceful, it’s always good to have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side to keep things on track. Specifically, a divorce lawyer will understand the common types of financial mistakes people make when going through a divorce and will be able to steer you away from them. Furthermore, in the event that a financial dispute does arise, your lawyer will be able to represent you and protect your rights.
Open your own personal credit card
It’s important to close any joint accounts as soon as possible during the divorce process in order to avoid financial disputes and problems. However, you’ll still want to have accounts open in order to protect your credit, so don’t hesitate to open your own personal credit card or other reasonable lines of credit. Another option would be to have your spouse sign off of your existing accounts so they remain in your name after the divorce.
Keep a close eye on your credit score
Speaking of credit, be sure to keep a close eye on your credit score both during and after the divorce. As you close joint accounts and make other changes to your finances, it is possible that you’ll notice a drop in your credit score. You should be on the lookout for large plummets in your score that could indicate an issue, such as a mistake made by a creditor or even debt being racked up under an existing account without your knowledge. This is something that unfortunately happens, even in “amicable” divorces, so it may be worth enrolling in a credit monitoring program or at least using a free credit score reporting service to keep an eye on your score in the months and years following your divorce.