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Divorce and Finances: How to Protect Your Assets

by | May 1, 2023

Navigating the financial complexities of a divorce can be as challenging as the emotional aspects. It’s a pivotal moment where understanding and protecting your assets become paramount. After all, a divorce not only signifies the end of a marital union but also triggers a critical reassessment of marital property, potential agreements, and long-term financial stability.

Failure to adequately protect your assets could lead to consequences that reverberate long after the emotional dust has settled. As such, strategic planning and the expert guidance of a seasoned family law attorney are crucial.

Our team at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen S.C., with a deep understanding of Wisconsin law and commitment to our clients, stands ready to guide you through every step of this process. Below, we delve into the essential strategies for asset protection during a divorce to ensure your financial future remains secure.

Understanding Marital vs. Separate Property

Understanding the difference between marital and separate property is a cornerstone of navigating divorce proceedings. Marital property, often referred to as community property in some states, encompasses assets and debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage.

This includes earnings, property bought with those earnings, and debts incurred during the marriage. Everything from joint bank accounts to real estate and retirement accounts can fall under this category.

On the other hand, separate property is defined as assets acquired before the marriage or during the marriage as a gift, inheritance, or personal injury award designated to one spouse. This category typically includes property owned prior to marriage, inheritances received by a single spouse, personal gifts, and payments for personal injuries.

How these properties are treated in a divorce can vary significantly from state to state. Some states adhere to the principle of equitable distribution, where marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally.

Community property states like Wisconsin follow community property laws, where marital assets are split 50/50. However, some states, including Wisconsin, have evolved to permit or mandate that judges distribute property based on equitable principles. 

An equitable distribution doesn’t necessarily imply an equal split. Rather, the court aims to make a fair and reasonable allocation of assets based on factors such as marriage length, each spouse’s income, and future financial prospects.

Role of a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, often pivotal in modern marriages, are practical tools for managing financial affairs and protecting individual assets. A prenuptial agreement, commonly known as a “prenup,” is a contract entered into by prospective spouses before marriage.

This agreement outlines the handling of financial assets and responsibilities in the event of a divorce or death. It typically includes provisions for the division of property and spousal support, offering a clear roadmap for financial separation if the marriage ends.

A postnuptial agreement is similar in content but executed after the couple is married. This agreement can be particularly useful for couples who have experienced a significant change in their financial circumstances or wish to revise the terms initially agreed upon in a prenuptial agreement. Both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements play a critical role in protecting individual assets.

They allow couples to determine the fate of their assets according to their preferences rather than leaving it to state laws. These agreements can safeguard pre-marriage assets, inheritances, and investments, ensuring they remain separate property.

Strategies for Protecting Assets

Some of the steps you can take to safeguard your assets during a divorce include:

Maintain Detailed Financial Records

Detailed documentation of your assets, debts, income, and expenses provides a clear picture of your financial status, aiding in fair asset division. You should also have records of asset acquisition dates, which can help distinguish between marital and separate property.

Close Joint Accounts

This step helps in separating financial liabilities and protects you from any potential debts incurred by your spouse after separation.

Establish Separate Credit

If you don’t already have individual credit in your name, start building it. This is particularly important for future financial independence, as it allows access to credit based on your financial history, not your spouse’s.

Work With a Financial Advisor

Consulting with a financial advisor can help you protect your assets during a divorce. These professionals can offer expert guidance on managing and protecting your assets.

They can help in strategizing for long-term financial stability. They will consider the implications of asset division and plan for future financial goals. Their expertise can be instrumental in making informed decisions that safeguard your financial interests during and after the divorce process.

The Role of a Family Law Attorney

An experienced family law attorney can protect your financial interests during a divorce. Here’s how they can assist:

Legal expertise in asset division: A family law attorney understands the complexities of marital property laws. They can navigate the legal system to advocate for an equitable division of assets, including real estate, investments, and retirement funds.

Negotiation skills: Since these attorneys are experienced in negotiation and divorce mediation, they can effectively represent your interests in discussions with your spouse’s legal team. This is crucial to reaching a satisfactory settlement without the need for a contentious court battle.

Drafting and reviewing agreements: A family law attorney is skilled in drafting and reviewing prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. They will ensure that these documents are legally sound and reflect your interests.

Representation in court: If negotiations fail, a family law attorney will represent you in court, presenting your case to ensure a fair outcome.

Keep in mind that your attorney’s ability to protect your interests hinges on complete transparency. Openly sharing all financial information allows your attorney to offer accurate advice and build a strong case. On the contrary, concealing assets or liabilities can lead to legal complications and undermine your case.

Post-Divorce Financial Planning

Post-divorce financial planning is critical in rebuilding and securing your financial future. This phase involves reevaluating and restructuring your financial life to adapt to new circumstances or financial status. Effective planning ensures you emerge from the divorce with a clear path to financial stability.

Here are key tips for effective post-divorce financial planning:

  • Adjust your budget to reflect your new income and expenses
  • Revise wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations to ensure they align with your current wishes
  • Focus on rebuilding your savings, including an emergency fund, to provide financial security
  • Consider long-term investment strategies that suit your revised financial goals and risk tolerance
  • Build or replenish an emergency fund for unexpected expenses

Consult a Family Law Attorney From Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

Protecting your assets during a divorce is critical for your financial security. It’s a complex process that requires careful planning, sound legal advice, and strategic financial management. To navigate this phase smoothly, seeking the counsel of experienced legal and financial professionals is essential.

Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C., with over 40 years of experience in family law, stands as a beacon of expertise and reliability in Wisconsin. Our seasoned divorce attorneys are dedicated to providing personalized, comprehensive support, guiding you through every facet of this challenging journey. Contact us today to learn how we can safeguard your interests and help you secure a stable and prosperous future post-divorce

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.


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