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Taking the first steps toward financial independence

When you married your spouse, you may have thought that your bond was an everlasting one. Years later, the stressors that accompany children, employment and everyday living may have begun to take a toll on your relationship. As the holiday season approaches, you have found that more tension has entered your relationship. After one bad spat, you may have begun to question the strength of your marriage bond. Of course, after you ring in the New Year, it is possible that you and your spouse will work to repair the wounds to your relationship.

But what if you don't? For those who see divorce as a viable option, it is essential that they take steps in preparation for the separation. The change in status from married to single influences more than a tax return or Facebook profile. Those who jump into divorce proceedings without research may find the process creates more anxiety than the marriage itself. Before contacting a divorce attorney, you should take steps to determine if divorce is the right option for you and to streamline the divorce process should you decide to follow this course of action.

Monetary considerations are those that ought to be at the top of your list. You will need to review your obligations and assets honestly if you want your post-married life to begin without additional restrictions. Taking these steps can help you evaluate your fiscal health before you establish your financial independence:

1. Photocopy and store important paperwork

Before engaging in divorce proceedings, you will need to assess your property and debts. Your knowledge of your liabilities and assets will benefit you during property division. Documentation of the mortgage, retirement portfolio and other possessions will ensure that you can engage in the process as an informed participant. In order to maintain control over this paperwork, you should not store it at home.

2. Open your own bank account and safe deposit box

If you and your spouse share a joint account, you will need to find a new bank in order to open your own bank account and safe deposit box. Your spouse will not be able to access the funds in this account should you begin to divert your income. The documents you photocopied should be stored in the bank safe deposit box, secured in your name.

3. Apply for a personal credit card

In order to lease a car, rent an apartment or apply for a loan, you will need to have a credit history if you want to receive low interest rates. For this reason, it is important to apply for a credit card. Charging items to your account and paying off the balance in a timely manner will help to improve your credit so that you can afford to purchase big-ticket items in the future.

4. Obtain a credit report and freeze your account

Upon opening a new credit card, you should request a copy of your credit report. These reports can reveal accounts fraudulently opened in your name by identity thieves or family members. Although you may not have known that these accounts were associated with you, you may still be responsible for paying off the balance associated with these accounts.

Federal law mandates that American citizens receive one free credit report every year. TransUnion, Experian and Equifax are the three credit bureaus that are required to provide this information.

5. Apply for a credit freeze

After receiving your credit report, you should freeze your credit. Taking this step will prevent anyone from opening an account in your name or accessing your credit report. Spouses attempting to peer into credit history to establish leverage in the divorce process will be unable to do so.

Even if you and your spouse split in an amicable fashion, you will still be responsible for establishing your financial independence after your divorce. In accessing this information before engaging in proceedings, you will ensure that you know where you stand before you have to stand alone.

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