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Advice for handling joint accounts during a divorce

For parents who go through a divorce, a joint custody award might raise financial questions. For example, in the case of a spouse who shares in child support expenses and/or mortgage payments for the family home, keeping a joint account might seem to be the most convenient option.

Yet a divorce attorney knows that the safest approach is usually to leave a marriage with no joint accounts or debt. In the case of credit cards, dividing up the debt on a joint account and transferring it to cards in just one spouse’s name can accomplish that goal.

An attorney may also suggest other strategies for minimizing a spouse’s exposure to joint liabilities. In addition to applying for a solely held credit card, a spouse may sign up with a credit monitoring service to avoid any surprises from a soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Other assets may also need updating during and/or after a divorce. For example, beneficiary designations on life insurance or retirement accounts may need to be updated. Valuation questions may arise, such as a 401k account’s projected long-term value. Fortunately, an attorney that specializes in divorce may have the connections and experience to address each of these issues, perhaps in conjunction with other financial professionals.

Even seemingly straightforward issues, such as an inventory of the marital estate, may become complicated. An attorney knows that old tax returns may be one tactic for discovering hidden assets or accounts. An attorney can help an individual gain a complete understanding of all the asset and debt issues affecting a marital estate. From there, a legal strategy can be developed.

Source: Credit.com, “How to Protect Your Finances in a Divorce,” AJ Smith, March 31, 2014

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