Joint accounts and beneficiary designations linking you together can be a serious liability once you've decided to divorce, Harris said. One client's spouse cleared their joint bank account of cash; another's husband stopped making payments on their mortgage to force her into giving up her interest in the property.
Early steps to divide finances should include opening a new individual bank account to keep future income separate and pulling a credit report to unlink joint debts.
"If there's a spouse who's a spendthrift, you want to make sure that spouse does not have access to your credit cards," Davis said.
Call your credit card issuers to see about removing authorized users or closing joint accounts. (You may need to pay any outstanding balances first.) Alert your health insurance provider that you're divorced. In some states, you could still be held liable for an ex's medical bills if providers aren't notified of the coverage change, she said.
As you split, be sure to update deeds and titles to reflect which spouse got what. Change beneficiaries for assets, including annuity contracts, life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Such designations can trump even what's in a will, meaning your ex gets the 401(k) balance and car even if you'd intended they go to someone else.
One tie to maintain, experts say, is any life insurance policies you have on your spouse. There's little reason to let that connection lapse, since you'll (eventually) be the one benefiting, said Harris.