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Dividing your finances when you’re splitting up: The first steps

You and your spouse have made the decision to divorce, and you’re doing your best to be fair to each other — whether you hope to remain friends when it’s all over or are trying to preserve a working relationship for the sake of your children.

Committing yourselves to a path forward is an important first step. Now comes the hard part: Separating your finances on your way to separating your lives.

The first steps to take when you’re dividing your finances in a divorce

As long as you and your spouse remain willing to work together, most of these tasks can be accomplished fairly quickly:

  1. Open new bank accounts and close the joint account. If, like most couples, you have a shared bank account, it’s time to open new, separate bank accounts and change any direct deposit information for your paychecks accordingly. As soon as everything has transferred, close the joint account.
  2. Make a list of all other shared accounts. For now, table any discussions about how to divide the major assets and debts, like the mortgage and joint credit cards, until you’re further along in the property division process. Focus on the smaller items you can separate easily. For example, get individual phone plans, and take each other’s name off as “authorized users” on any private credit cards.
  3. Make a new budget and divide expenses. Neither of you may be in a good position to move out of the family home right away, so sit down and make a written agreement about how you will handle the bills until you’re both on your own. Make sure that you discuss not only the mortgage or rent and utilities, but also the insurance payments, grocery bills and any repair costs.

Once you’ve accomplished these three things, you’ll be well on your way toward financial independence from each other — although there is still a lot more work to be done. The tone you set now for your divorce, however, may carry through as you deal with more complex parts of the divide.