Maybe your marriage has been under extreme stress recently, or perhaps your ex already filed for divorce. When you believe that a change in your relationship status is imminent, you need to be much more cautious about what you do with your finances and assets.
Unless you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with enforceable terms about how to divide your property, you and your ex will need to work out a resolution for splitting up your assets. If you can’t agree about who should receive what and who is responsible for which debts, you will likely file a contested divorce.
A Washington family law judge will look at an inventory of your assets and familiarize themselves with your family circumstances. Then, they will determine what is a reasonable way to divide your property. To protect yourself from making mistakes that will reduce what you receive in property division, great care is needed when managing your finances and assets prior to the finalization of your divorce.
Don’t hide money or property from your ex
For a judge to enter an appropriate and just ruling, they need to have a realistic idea of the family circumstances, including the household assets and debts.
While you may feel strongly that your income should be your own, until you divorce, it is likely marital property. Withdrawing cash during the divorce, funneling resources into a new, secret checking account or even moving assets like jewelry, art or furniture out of the marital home could all lead to allegations that you have hidden assets.
If the judge believes you did so intentionally, that perception of you will influence how they split your property.
Don’t give things away or sell marital property without your ex’s awareness
You know that you need to get rid of some of your shared property, especially if you will move out to new, smaller spaces.
You might sell marital assets cheaply to get rid of them quickly or even give them away to people. Selling things for less than the fair market value without your ex’s approval or giving away property could constitute dissipation. Dissipation is the intentional wasting of marital assets and can influence what you received in the property division process.
Don’t spend all of your savings or max out the credit cards
It isn’t just giving away or selling assets that can lead to claims of dissipation. Spending marital assets for personal reasons, whether to conduct an affair or for some retail therapy, could also be dissipation.
The courts might hold you solely responsible for any amount of money that you spend from joint banking accounts. The same may be true for debt accrued on credit cards, regardless of whose name is actually on the bill.
To best protect yourself from major financial mistakes in an upcoming divorce, learning more about what is legal and what is appropriate can help you make smart money moves while setting yourself up for an independent future.