How to separate finances of your ex-spouses from yours?

Finances are just as much a bone of contention during the marriage as they are in the divorce itself.  Unraveling your ex-spouse’s debts and assets from yours can be complicated after you consider a home, a vacation property, vehicles, credit cards and so on.  An uncooperative ex-spouse who may or may not have been good with money adds another layer of complexity.

While unraveling the assets and debts of the marriage can be a headache, the process can be easier the sooner the process begins.  Waiting until the divorce is done or trusting the ex-spouse’s promises to be cooperative can cause the unraveling to be more difficult than it should be.

Some of the finances must be divided through the divorce process although there are some steps that can be done prior to the divorce:

1.  Setting up separate bank accounts

Opening a checking and savings account in your own name, depositing your paychecks and paying bills through the new accounts are solid first steps.  This allows you to control your own income as soon as possible.  You can try closing joint bank accounts and changing any direct bill pay, but each bank and credit union has its own process of closing accounts which may or may not require the ex-spouse’s cooperation.

2.  Separating credit cards and the accounts

For each card that is only in your name, contact each credit card company to verify the ex-spouse is not authorized to use that credit card as the primary cardholder.

For each joint credit card held with the ex-spouse, close it, so neither person can increase the balance.  Each person can hopefully open a new credit card in their own individual name, depending on his or her credit, with the separate responsibility to pay the new account on time.  Opening new credit cards can allow for balance transfers possibly to new accounts that offer lower interest rates.

3.  Checking credit reports

Now is the time to clean up your credit file of any errors or to see if someone obtained debt in your name.  One can access his or her credit reports from the nation’s three credit reporting agencies for free once a year at

Real estate, a business, retirement accounts and other larger assets take more time and work through the divorce process itself, but taking these initial steps to unravel more immediate finances is the first step to beginning a new and single financial life.

Parents who have questions about the divorce process should contact experienced family law attorney Jessica L. Sterle at (218) 722-2655 to schedule a consultation.

Jessica Sterle