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5 things you must do before you file for a divorce

Making the decision to end your marriage is a very serious decision that mustn't be taken lightly. There are some instances in which you might be tempted to rush into a divorce, but that isn't always the best choice. Instead, you need to properly prepare for the divorce. That preparation starts before you file any paperwork related to the divorce.

Check your financial accounts to ensure that your name is on the accounts. Find out if a joint signature is required to take money out of the account or make changes to the account. If only one signature is required, determine if you can change the account to a dual-signature only account. This can help you to prevent your spouse from taking money out or making changes to the account without your knowledge.

Make a list of all assets. When you file for a divorce, you will have to disclose all assets. Your spouse will have to do the same. If you have a list of all the assets, you can easily determine if your spouse was being truthful in the asset documentation.

Think about the timing of your divorce. If you have been married for almost 10 years, try to wait to file until after your 10th anniversary. If your spouse has a bonus coming or any other financial windfall, wait until after it is disbursed to file. Waiting a little bit can often mean you are entitled to a larger settlement if either of those conditions apply.

Protect your finances and credit. Start stashing away some cash so you have the financial means to support yourself once you file for divorce. Additionally, don't co-sign on any loans for your spouse now. You will need resources, and possibly credit, to start anew.

Get copies of all important papers. Tax returns, loan statements, mortgage documentation, bank statements, and any other financial statements or important documents. You might need this during the divorce.

All of this can take time to gather, but it is necessary that you have the documentation you need to support your claims as you move through the divorce process.

Source: Dr. Phil, "Divorce Survival Tips," accessed Oct. 26, 2015

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