One of the most critical areas at the beginning of a divorce are your financial accounts.  If your wife files for divorce, or if you are planning for filing for divorce you need to lock these accounts down immediately.  Here are the crucial things you need to do:

  • Take half of the checking and half of the savings accounts and move them to a separate account or accounts at a new bank or credit union.  I can’t tell you how many times banks and credit unions have screwed up and allowed a divorcing wife access to their husband’s separate, individual accounts simply because they were all held at the same institution.  It is crucial that the new accounts you are going to open be at a separate bank or credit union.
  • Make sure that no banking statements, credit card statements, or any other kind of statements get mailed to the residence.  Change all your monthly statements, notifications, and other correspondence to electronic only. Otherwise, you run the risk of your wife intercepting the mail, and then filling out the change of address form to whichever address she wishes.  There’s nothing quite like getting a phone call from your credit card company wondering why you haven’t paid your balance in four months. Don’t give your wife the opportunity to damage your credit rating.
  • Make sure that your income, particularly if it is directly deposited, goes into your new accounts.  Worst case scenario, see if your human resources department or your payroll department can split your paycheck equally between the old and new accounts.
  • Make sure you change your ATM pin.  Of course, this becomes unnecessary if you have successfully accomplished the previous points.  You will simply get a new ATM in a new pin for your new accounts.
  • If you have any individual credit cards on which your wife is an authorized user, contact those credit card companies immediately and have her removed as an authorized user.
  • Secure your cellphone with a password and/or numeric passcode.
  • If you have any joint credit cards call your credit card company and see if they can split the accounts.  If they cannot, ask if they can remove one of the names from the accounts, regardless of whether it’s your name or your wife’s name.  If they will not do any of the above, let them know that you are currently going through a divorce and ask them to freeze the account so that no new charges may be made.  If they won’t do that, ask for a supervisor and explain to them that you’re going through a divorce and you want your credit limit lowered as low as it can possibly go.
  • These include certain non-obvious cards, such as gas station cards, Costco cards, department store cards, etc.
  • While not directly financially related, make sure that any official documents that your children may have, such as birth certificates and passports, are moved to a location of your choosing, where your spouse does not have the opportunity to play games with them.  You should not play games with them either but moving them simply gives you more control over possible disagreements.

This may seem a little draconian to you, but you would be surprised how often a spiteful, angry or hurt wife chooses, in the heat of the moment, to cut off their own nose to spite their face.  I’ve seen wives move all the funds from a checking or savings account to a separate account, including sometimes the children’s college accounts. Wives have maxed out all their credit cards by writing checks against the credit card accounts and have used the ATM cards to raid the checking account for hundreds of dollars a day, every day.  This only throws gasoline on the fire and guarantees a longer, angrier, and more expensive divorce process. I would also urge you to obtain a credit report as soon as possible, to determine what your current credit makeup looks like, and to rule out any kind of “phantom” accounts or malicious actions that your wife might have taken.