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Embarking on a separation or divorce can be difficult and overwhelming for many reasons, and one area in particular that can cause stress is finances and the division of assets. Here is a checklist of things you should do first to prepare for divorce:

[  ] Run a credit report. Know where your credit stands (this goes for both of you), but also gain access to a list of all open accounts and whose name or names are attached to each, including some you may have forgotten about over the years.

[  ] Pull up account statements, and make photo copies. Often, one partner in a relationship manages the finances, and the other may not know where or how to access this information. Make copies so that everyone is in the know.

[  ] Evaluate shared benefits, like auto and health insurance. Start thinking about how your family is currently covered, and what options are available for yourself and your children.

[  ] Get organized. The court requires each party to complete a sworn financial statement detailing income, monthly living expenses, martial assets and debt. This information is critical for the Court to allocate marital property, calculate child support and consider whether spousal maintenance is appropriate. To the degree that you can, begin organizing information such as your child’s portion of healthcare expenses, daycare costs, grocery expenses, etc.

[  ] Think about “big ticket” items. Compile a list of household goods and furnishings. Prioritize items that are important or hold sentimental value for you. Focus on the big pieces, not the oven mitts. The list can be exchanged with your partner so that both of you can initial items of interest.

[  ] Consider speaking with a lender. Many couples are unsure whether one spouse can buy the other out and keep the marital home, or if the home needs to go on the market. Speaking with a lender is an important first step, so that you know what’s possible and realistic. You may also wish to obtain a market analysis on your home to get a ballpark fair market value. Realtors often provide this service for free.

[  ] Be honest. Maybe you and your partner were not always upfront with one another when it came to finances. The court requires a mandatory financial disclosure process during a divorce and honesty is important as you determine how best to secure your family’s financial future.

[  ] Be patient. Take a deep breath. There will be data to gather, and information and numbers that you’ve likely never had to worry about. It can be a lot. But with time, effort and support from a knowledgeable third party, you’ll get there.

[  ] Remember the end goal. Regardless of the challenges and emotions at play throughout the divorce process, you both need to remember the end goal: safe housing accommodations and financial security for yourselves and your children.

Are you embarking on the process of separation or divorce, or know someone who might be? The Center for Out-of-Court Divorce is here to answer questions and support families through this process.

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