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3 steps to take before telling your spouse you want a divorce

The beginning of the year is one of the busiest times for new divorce filings, as people resolve to make changes in their lives, including getting out of unhappy marriages. But before rushing to the courthouse, there are some things people considering divorce should do to protect themselves financially.

These things may become very difficult once you file, so it makes sense to do them beforehand. Here are three things to do before announcing your divorce, as provided by TIME:

1. Gather paperwork. Copies of documents like statements for bank and retirement accounts, tax returns and real estate deeds are crucial for determining the value of your marital assets and debts. If you and your spouse have a prenuptial agreement, you should make sure to have a copy of this too.

2. Set aside money for yourself. TIME recommends having a year’s worth of money to pay for basic expenses set aside before filing for divorce. If it is not possible to open up a bank account and make deposits without your spouse finding out, consider opening a credit card with as low of an introductory interest rate as you can find.

3. Get out of shared credit cards. Speaking of credit cards, while you are searching for one in your own name, try to get your name off of any cards you share with your spouse, or remove your spouse from yours if the account is in your name. Freezing the account is another option. Otherwise, he or she may run up a big debt on the card that you both will be responsible for.

With proper planning, and the help of a family law attorney, your divorce can be relatively smooth and painless, putting on the road to the rest of your life.

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