Plan ahead for the property division phase of your divorce

No one likes to think about property division when facing divorce, but it is a major part of the whole process.

If you want to navigate the division of property as smoothly as possible, it is worthwhile to plan ahead.

Identify assets

South Carolina is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court will strive to divide assets between you and your spouse fairly, although the division will not necessarily be a 50-50 split.

Valuation of all assets will occur after you and your spouse identify each one as either marital or separate property. Common assets include the marital home, vehicles and bank accounts. You and your spouse may also have to divide retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, antiques, valuable paintings and more.

Prepare well

Both you and your spouse should have a complete set of financial documents. You will need a set for your attorney, but you should keep copies of everything for yourself.

You can lessen the complexity of property division by closing any joint accounts you have and opening new accounts in your separate names. If you wish to maintain a certain joint bank account, you should prepare a written agreement stating its purpose. It is also a good idea to require two signatures on any checks you write from that account.

Freeze any investment accounts you have so that no misuse of funds will take place. You might also change the title of your marital home to “tenants in common.” This will clarify the amount of ownership that each of you has in the property.

Look ahead

Property division is stressful; your financial future is at stake. You may not come away with everything you hope to retain or acquire, but if you plan ahead and take charge of your part in the process, you will find yourself in a much better position overall than if you had stayed on the sidelines of your divorce.