This tip sounds simple, but many folks have ignored the finances of their marriage because their spouse is in control (and often controlling), or because they have not “needed” to become knowledgeable.
If this has been you, right now, you NEED to find out as much as you can. Where are your assets (i.e. retirement accounts, bank accounts, investments, etc.) held? In whose name? What is the income stream coming into the family? Gather and make copies of recent bank, retirement and investment account statements and the three most recent years of tax returns. If none of this is possible because your spouse keeps the records away from you at his or her office, ask about them. The nature of the response you get may help you decide what to do. If your spouse is uncooperative when you ask for this information, then that tells you there is a problem.
Also check on your liabilities. What is the mortgage payment? How much is left to pay on the mortgage in comparison to the equity in your home? Do you have credit card balances? What are they? In whose name are the cards? You should also pull a credit report on both you and your spouse. Do the credit reports match the information you’ve gathered? Are there liabilities, debts or assets you were not aware of?
Do you have your own credit card or are you carried on your spouse’s accounts? If you don’t have one, get yourself an independent credit card. Also, if at all possible, make sure you have a separate checking or savings account with sufficient funds to carry you for a month or two. If your divorce starts with a bang it may take your attorney that long to get you financial relief from the court.
Finally, take a deep breath, don’t be overwhelmed. This looks like a lot, but it will get sorted out in the end.