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Protecting yourself during divorce starts before you file

You and your spouse have been together for years, and you already know that California is an equitable distribution state. This indicates to you that there's very little your spouse can do to change the fact that you'll split your assets 50-50. What you are more worried about is making sure you have access to all the assets, so that you can prove that they exist to the court.

Your spouse is the higher earner, and you know that he may try to hide assets or restrict you from accessing files that would help you prove that certain assets exist. On top of that, you aren't 100 percent sure that you know all of the accounts that your spouse has open, since you're not in charge of all your finances together.

Protecting yourself during a divorce does start before you file

You should know that protecting yourself during divorce and making sure you get the most out of the divorce starts long before you file with your attorney. Before you ever discuss a divorce, it's a good choice to begin printing out copies of credit scores, retirement accounts and bank accounts. Getting photos of assets around the house and information on where external assets are kept is also beneficial.

Essentially, it is necessary to do as much preplanning as possible. You want to know which assets you have and where they are, so you can present a full list of assets to the court and negotiate for your half of the marital assets.

What happens if assets go missing?

The great thing about preparing in advance is that you'll have a list of assets that you're looking for during negotiations. You'll have documentation that they exist, and you'll know where they should be located. If your spouse chooses to hide assets, it will be very easy to prove that they're doing so, which will hurt their case in court. No judge wants to see a spouse who is intentionally hiding assets from the other, and doing so can result in penalties.

You can begin working with your attorney long before you talk to your spouse about a divorce. Your attorney can tell you what types of documents you need to make the divorce and property division process go as smoothly as possible. When you prepare ahead of time, you'll be better able to take steps to protect your own interests.

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