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Waukesha, WI family law attorneysMany times, couples do not jump directly from being married to getting divorced. In most cases, a couple who is unhappy with their marriage will go through a period of separation before they file for divorce, even if that separation is not legally recognized. While this can be a good way for couples to determine whether or not they are actually ready for a divorce, it can also be a very important period of time for the couple’s finances. In Wisconsin, marital property is divided using “community property” theories. This means that each spouse is entitled to half of the marital estate, but that the marital estate is composed of all assets that either spouse owns, regardless of when they acquired that asset. Because there are such high stakes when it comes time to divide your property during a divorce, managing your finances prior to that is crucial. If you are currently separated from your spouse but are planning on filing for divorce, here are a few things you should keep in mind during your separation period:

  • Understand that your living situation will likely change. Many people do not want to come to terms with it, but after you are divorced, your standard of living is very likely going to change. Many households are dual-income households, meaning both partners work, allowing them to have a lifestyle that cannot usually be maintained with one income.

  • Put together and follow a post-divorce budget. Because of this, it is important that you begin to plan for your finances after your divorce is completed. Putting together a budget not only gives you an idea of how much you will need each month to live, but it can also help you understand what your bare minimum needs are when negotiating property division with your spouse. 

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Waukesha divorce lawyerHow do you know when it is time to end a marriage? There is no correct answer to that question because there is a different “right” answer for everyone. Many people report feeling distant or emotionally separated from their partners well before they divorced, but many also report that they knew it was time for a divorce when they could no longer trust their spouse. When you cannot trust your spouse during your marriage, you probably cannot trust him or her during your divorce either. How do you know if your spouse is being truthful about everything he or she owns or how much money you both have? If you think that your spouse might be hiding assets from you, taking action is essential. Here are a few things you can do to begin your hunt for hidden assets:

  1. Get copies of your tax returns. The first thing any divorce attorney is going to tell you to do is to get copies of tax returns from the last couple of years. You should have at least three years' worth of returns, but five years of tax returns are preferred. You are looking for inconsistencies between returns. Where has income been coming from? Are there other sources of income, such as interest, dividends, or capital gains, that you are unfamiliar with? Flag anything that you are unsure of and share it with your lawyer. 

  2. Carefully review your bank and credit card statements. Next, begin looking through your statements from your joint bank and credit card accounts. Unusual transfers or withdrawals should be flagged, as well as any recurring or scheduled transfers or withdrawals that may form a pattern. Have there been any odd payments made to family members or friends or deposits into a child’s custodial account? If so, your spouse may be attempting to funnel away marital funds under your nose.

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