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Close joint accounts and notify the banks, charge cards, and others by a certified, return receipt letter that you are no longer responsible for your spouse’s expenses. You may want the company to reopen an account in your own name. This is a good time to request it.

At the bank you may want to divide joint accounts or put them in your name. This sometimes will make the judge angry with you, but it is often easier to give money back than to get it back. If you are the breadwinner, do not put your dependent spouse or children out in the cold without money to get by on. This will aggravate the judge, who will make you pay anyway.

Do not cut off the utilities on your spouse and children without giving them plenty of notice. Make sure you can prove this notice to the court, because leaving your spouse and children without heat or light in December seldom sits well with the judge.

Some people get into a lot of debt shortly before their marriage falls apart. This can be because they try to buy things hoping it will make the marriage better. If you have a lot of debt, you need to take steps to correct this problem as soon as possible. There will be less money to go around after you and your spouse separate because you will be supporting two households on the income that previously only had to pay for one.

During your marriage, most of your debts were probably incurred jointly. That means that both of you are responsible for the repayment of the debt. When your divorce is finalized either through a settlement agreement or a court hearing, the court will make orders concerning who is to pay what debt. If your ex-spouse does not make the required payments, you can usually take your ex-spouse back into court, but you cannot stop the creditor from trying to collect from you. Your creditors are not parties to your divorce, so the order requiring your spouse to pay off the debt will not bind them. They agreed to loan money because you and your spouse both agreed in a signed contract that said you both will pay the money back. This means you can have a real problem if your spouse is financially irresponsible. If your debts are not too high, some creditors may be willing to refinance loans so that only one spouse is responsible for repayment. I recommend that you look into this option.

If there is any reason why your spouse may be considering bankruptcy, you need to discuss this with me so that we can take steps to try to protect you in the event that happens.

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