1. KEEP CERTAIN PROPERTY SEPARATE
If you have received any monetary inheritance or gift, other than from your spouse, do not co-mingle it with marital monies or joint account funds. Keep it segregated and try to keep it intact.
2. GATHER RECORDS
Locate and make copies of: income tax returns for last 3 years, including all schedules; stock certificates; bonds; saving account pass books or statements; money market fund statements; brokerage account statements; checking account statements; and, if possible, checks; appraisals of real estate or tangible personal property (i.e. those made for insurance purposes or loan purposes); loan applications and financial statements; real estate closing statements; and Wills or trust documents. If your spouse owns a business, obtain a copy of all cash receipts for the past 3 years, if available, as well as tax returns, financial statements, and bank records for the business.
3. TAKE INVENTORY
Inventory the contents of any jointly held safety deposit box, as well as household valuables such as silver, china, antiques, collectibles, art objects, and household goods. You may want to photograph or videotape the household valuables and personal items, especially items you suspect that your spouse may hide.
4. ESTABLISH CREDIT
Try to establish personal credit relationships (i.e. credit cards, department store charges, etc.)
5. OPEN INDIVIDUAL BANK ACCOUNTS
Open a bank account in your name at a bank where your spouse does not do business. Start putting away as much money as you can. If and when you separate, there will be a need for available funds to retain an attorney as well as pay any other expenses which your spouse refuses to pay. Your spouse may even withhold support, which will place a financial burden on you, until a Motion to Establish Temporary Support can be brought or heard.
6. SAFETY DEPOSIT BOX
Obtain a safety deposit box for your personal records.
7. LIST THE FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS THAT MAIL YOUR SPOUSE
Make a list of all mail received by your spouse from brokerage firms, banks, insurance companies, and credit card issuers, as well as their addresses. DO NOT OPEN PERSONAL MAIL OF YOUR SPOUSE.
8. DIARY RELEVANT EVENTS
If your spouse is away a lot make notes of the dates, times, and any explanation given.
9. DO NOT SIGN DOCUMENTS RELATING TO FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS
Do not sign any contracts, promissory notes, deeds, mortgages, or similar documents at the request of your spouse.
10. TAKE CARE OF ANY MEDICAL, DENTAL, OR AUTOMOBILE ISSUES
If you need medical or dental treatment, which is covered under your spouse’s insurance, you may want to have it done now. If your car needs any work, you may want to have it done now.
11. DO NOT INVADE THE PRIVACY OF YOUR SPOUSE
You cannot secretly tape phone conversations your spouse is having with another party. You cannot secretly intercept e-mails or circumvent passwords to obtain information. You cannot secretly videotape your spouse in an area where your spouse has an expectation of privacy. When in doubt, do not do it. It is better to hire a licensed private investigator who will conduct a legal surveillance.
12. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS
You should change all your passwords. If your spouse knows your e-mail password or password to accounts, your spouse may intercept private information.
13. STOP OR USE CAUTION WITH SOCIAL NETWORKING
Do not post anything on Facebook that you do not want your spouse and spouse’s attorney to see.
14. IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN...
Do not involve them in any discussions related to the issues of the divorce. Do not talk negatively about your spouse in the presence of the children.
IF YOU DECIDE ON FILING FOR DIVORCE, IT MAY BE IN YOUR INTEREST TO:
1. Withdraw half of the funds from joint savings accounts and jointly held money market funds, etc., and place them in your own safety deposit box. (DISCUSS WITH ATTORNEY PRIOR)
2. Take possession of jointly held stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, money market funds, etc., and place them in your own safety deposit box.
3. Obtain a credit report on yourself for unknown credit cards and other possible issues.
4. Change the locks to your home if your spouse no longer resides there.
NOTE: The objective of these instructions and your objective should be to preserve and protect marital assets, not to dissipate, hide or dispose of them.