Ignorance is not bliss – and never less so than when it comes to divorcing spouses. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been married, how much money you have accumulated, who is the primary breadwinner, or who manages the family finances.

Information is power. And one of the most powerful pieces of knowledge you can have is complete information on the state of your family’s finances. So, if you are planning to get a divorce or think your spouse is planning to divorce, now is the time to follow the money trail and schedule a preliminary consultation with a divorce attorney to ensure you better understand your options.

Here are four points to consider:

1. Should you pay attention to your family’s finances?

Of course, you should always know where your family is financially. It’s not rude to ask. You are not living in a “don’t ask/don’t tell” situation. It’s a necessity.

It is common for one spouse or the other to manage the family’s finances. In some cases where one spouse works outside the home, family economics may be managed by the stay-at-home partner, who pays household bills, credit cards, utilities, school tuitions, etc., often from a fund or checking account set up expressly for this purpose.

But what about other marital assets – the money, property, insurance policies, etc., that are part of your family’s finances? Do you know what you have, where it is, and how much?

No matter who is the primary breadwinner in your family…No matter who manages the family’s finances…If it’s not you, make sure you get involved, or at least up to speed and fully informed now.

2. Why should you always know where your family’s money is?

Because if you are completely in the dark about your family’s income and assets, and you are considering divorce, your ignorance could give your soon-to-be-ex-spouse a very unfair advantage when it comes time to negotiate and settle the financial issues of your divorce.

3. Are you or your spouse planning a divorce?

All the more reason to get as much information as possible about the state of your finances now. Make copies of everything – financial records, such as account statements for savings, brokerage, and retirement accounts and anything else related to your current marital lifestyle – your checking accounts, credit card statements, tax returns). In today’s world, almost everything you do is stored electronically (whether you realize it or not) so know how to access your household accounts online and have a password to access those accounts.

4. Is money disappearing or going into cash accounts?

Did one of your checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts suddenly dry up? Did a check bounce? Was your credit card declined? Did a vacation abruptly get canceled because finances are suddenly tight? These are all warning signals that your spouse may have diverted marital funds to his own purposes. Speak with your spouse about these concerns. If he or she does not give you a satisfactory explanation, you would be wise to consult a divorce attorney about the possibility that your spouse is improperly diverting marital assets.

If you think your spouse may be selling, transferring assets into new accounts, or taking your name off marital assets, like real estate or life insurance policies, without your consent, alert the person or company holding that asset for you. Tell your attorney, who may be able to obtain get a restraining order from the court. If the assets are already out of reach, you (or your attorney) may hire forensic accountants to locate and value the missing assets.

Forewarned is forearmed

If you think your spouse may be planning to leave your marriage, do not wait until you are served with divorce papers. Be proactive, not surprised. There is little downside in seeking knowledgeable counsel to prepare yourself – just in case. If you have questions about how to protect yourself in case of divorce, let’s talk. I’m Dan Stock, and you can call me at 475-232-4105 or email me at dhstock@danielhstockpllc.com to schedule a consultation.

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