Filing for divorce: Financial issues to keep in mind

When you got married in Virginia, you likely thought about your wedding day plans long in advance. Even if yours was a simple ceremony, you no doubt envisioned the way you wanted things to look and how the celebration should unfold on the big day. This is true for most important occasions in life. It usually takes a bit of forethought and planning to prepare for life's milestones.

Not all significant events that require planning are joyous and celebratory. For instance, you probably did not expect to divorce your spouse. How well you prepare for divorce, however, may have serious long-term financial implications. Entering into a divorce should be thoroughly considered and prepared for.

Did you sign a prenuptial agreement?

When it comes to prenuptial contracts, people typically fall under one of two categories: Those who detest the idea because they think it unromantic, and those who understand that protecting financial interests is beneficial to both parties.

If you signed a prenup, then you may already be one step ahead when it comes to preparing for divorce proceedings. Like most states, Virginia operates under equitable property rules, which means marital assets are not necessarily split 50/50 in divorce. A prenuptial agreement is an easy way to retain separate ownership of property.

Legal separation date

Once you establish a legal date of separation, any property you acquire from that point forward is yours and yours alone. If you fail to establish a separation date and continue living with your spouse before you finalize your divorce, questions of ownership may get complicated.

Do you have your own bank account?

It's not uncommon for spouses to share bank accounts. However, if you keep depositing money into a jointly owned account as you prepare for divorce, the court will consider the funds in the account to be marital property. If, however, you open a separate bank account in your name only, deposited monies may not be subject to property division.

If you keep a joint account, limit access

If, for some reason, you wish to keep your jointly owned bank account open before you divorce, you can limit access to the account to help protect your financial interests. While this may help prevent depletion of account funds, you'll want to note that it may also mean you cannot close the account until you finalize your divorce.

Don't forget about credit cards

Since Virginia is an equitable property state, you and your spouse share liability for debts that exist when you divorce. In short, if your spouse continues to rack up a credit card balance before you secure a settlement, the court will hold you partially responsible for paying the debt.

You can either try to convince your spouse to close the account or you can contact the company and have your name removed. If you choose the latter, make sure you document all correspondence, including date, time, name of agent and means of communication, such as text, email or phone call.

The overall plan

While you may feel disappointed, angry or even sad about your divorce, it's logical to assume that you want to be as financially prepared to adapt to a new lifestyle as possible. This is why it's so important to take steps to protect your financial interests and also why many spouses rely on experienced family law attorneys to help them navigate proceedings. 

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