California residents whose marriages are ending need to take steps before, during and after the divorce to protect themselves financially. It is important to organize financial records, including making a list of all individual and shared assets. Some people might need to look back at old tax returns and bank statements to get the necessary information.
If the marriage has lasted nearly 10 years, people might want to wait until after the 10-year mark to file since this could affect their eligibility to collect Social Security retirement benefits based on a spouse’s earnings. Joint financial commitments should be avoided if a divorce is looming although people who do not have their own credit might want to apply for an individual credit card. They should also think about what the divorce will cost and start tracking expenses, including whether a spouse is misusing shared assets. It is important to save money and think about how the divorce will affect such assets as retirement accounts.
When the divorce is final, there are still several steps that must be taken. Some people may need a name change. Estate planning documents might need to be revised. People should be careful about a divorce agreement in which they are relying on an ex-spouse to pay off a debt because if it goes unpaid, they could be pursued as well as the ex-spouse.
An attorney might be able to assist a client in creating a settlement agreement that avoids these pitfalls. Couples are often able to reach an accord through negotiations or an alternative dispute resolution method such as mediation or collaborative divorce. These approaches can be less stressful, expensive and time-consuming than litigation. They also give the individuals more control over the settlement. However, there are situations in which an agreement cannot be reached through these methods and litigation might be necessary.