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The importance of separating the 'joints' during divorce

As many Virginia residents who are married or have been married know, marriage prompts the merging of many things. Married couples file taxes together and often share an insurance policy. Many opt for joint checking accounts and share credit and credit scores. But what happens when a married couple decides to divorce? That can often depend on the steps you take to protect your own assets.

Every divorce is different. Some are amicable, and some are messy. However, the need to protect yourself is important no matter how smoothly your divorce is going. And protecting yourself starts with separating joint accounts and creating your own.

If you and your spouse shared a bank account, it is extremely important to leave it and open your own. You can start by taking out half the money in each joint account and depositing it into your own. Not only can this help get your independent life started, it can protect you in case a spouse gets angry and decides to clean out an account.

Next is to separate your credit accounts, including loans. If you and your spouse are on good terms, plan a time to sort through it all, deciding who will take on which debts. A good way to get started is to get copies of your credit score and highlight which debts are shared between the two of you. One important thing to remember is that if you give an asset to your spouse, you must take your name off the loan, otherwise you could end up being responsible if he or she doesn't make payments.

As your assets, income and marital status change, so will your tax returns. Make sure you know what will change. Speaking to a professional may to helpful to make sure you've adjusted everything appropriately.

Finally, if you were covered under your spouse's insurance plan, it's time to get your own. While it may seem unlikely that you'll desperately need coverage during this transition period, unexpected accidents do happen, so it's best to be prepared.

Hopefully these tips will help you as you transition into a new chapter of your life. For more information about the divorce process, speaking to an experienced legal professional may be helpful.

Source: Money Talks News, "4 Steps to Take as Soon as You Say 'I Don't'," Angela Colley, Jan. 3, 2012

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